Gary Neville is now aiming for St Michael’s to start on site in March next year, telling Place North West it would be “unrealistic” for the project to begin in 2018, but added the team was hoping to get on site as quickly as possible once designs are finalised.
The developer, alongside architect Stephen Hodder, had earlier this year said the team was hopeful of starting construction in 2018 after planning permission was secured, but Neville now said it would be “prudent” to finalise all the elements of the £200m project’s design.
He added that this was expected to take place “over the next couple of months” and that he would be working closely with Hodder to make sure the design is right.
“We parked much of the design work 12 months ago so nobody can suggest we have rushed it,” he said. “Ultimately, we’ve done it much better [than the previous design]”. He said the team was continuing to work hard on the layouts for the apartments, with much of the design work aside from elements of the studio and one-bed apartments now “pretty much fixed”.
The project has an estimated construction cost of £135m, and Neville confirmed he was looking to “reinvigorate discussions” with main contractor BCEGI, which has been attached to the project for some time. These talks are due to take place in the next two to three months.
Neville added he was hopeful of ensuring the project’s spend was focussed in Greater Manchester, but said there were certain elements of the scheme which would have to be procured from elsewhere.
Hodder and Neville, speaking alongside Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese at the MIPIM property conference in Cannes, said the entire project would take three-and-a-half years to complete, but that it could be delivered in phases, with the commercial and hotel element delivered first, hopefully within two-and-a-half years.
Neville confirmed the developer was in discussions with a five-star hotel operator for the site and was hopeful of announcing the deal once planning permission is confirmed.
The Secretary of State has a 21-day option to call in the project for Government scrutiny. The call-in period started on 8 March, when Manchester City Council’s planning committee approved the scheme by six votes to three. The Secretary also has an option to extend this process.
However, Hodder said he was “hopeful” the scheme would not be called in, while Neville said the possible call-in “isn’t going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Neville said he would “make no apologies” for the housing element of the scheme, which will provide 189 high-end residential apartments, and added: “We want the design and the products used on the site to be the best quality it can be”.
“When we designed One Deansgate we wanted that to be a market-shifting scheme, and we want St Michael’s to be the same: it has to be high end.”
Sir Richard Leese also defended the housing mix, and said part of the city’s five-year demand was focussed on high-end housing.
“We want the people that will live there to spend their money in the city, and not spend it in places like Prestbury like they do now.”
He also outlined the council’s plans to “take some of the project’s profit and reinvest it in affordable housing”, and said “the more profit the project makes the more will be invested,” but when asked to put a figure on this ambition, Neville said it would be “impossible to predict”, given that it would be dictated by market conditions in a number of years’ time.
The project’s apartments will be launched in Manchester first, followed by an international launch straight after, and highlighted the importance of attracting international investment into the scheme.
Neville added there would be massive job creation at the site through the commercial and retail element: “You have around six people working on that site right now; once it’s built there will be 1,500, and that’s a massive benefit for the city”.
He concluded his enthusiasm for the scheme had not been dampened by the lengthy planning process, which has seen the project change from two towers to one following objections from locals and heritage bodies.
“It feels like we were two-nil down to City in the first half and now we can pull it back in the second.”
Overall, the revised St Michael’s scheme is set to provide 189 apartments; 216 hotel bedrooms; nearly 150,000 sq ft of office space; retail and restaurant space, and a new synagogue.
The mixed-use development proposed at Jackson’s Row in Manchester city centre, and is backed by ex-footballers Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Manchester City Council, developer Brendan Flood, Singaporean funder Rowsley, and Beijing Construction Engineering Group. Zerum is planning advisor, while Deloitte advised on the socio-economic impact.