The University of Manchester has launched the £1.5bn innovation district on the site of its North Campus with the university’s director of estates Diana Hampson promising “nothing is predetermined” in the search for a development partner.
Ahead of starting the full tender process for the site in the summer, the University has outlined its vision for the site, comprising up to 3.5m sq ft of mixed-use space including large areas of public realm. The focus will be on attracting science, research, development, cultural, and tech companies, as well as providing residential space.
However, speaking to Place North West, Hampson said there had been “major interest both nationally and internationally” in delivering the site, worth an estimated £1.5bn.
“We want to create a dynamic, world-class community so we want someone who has the track record and can demonstrate that vision to us”, she said. Asked whether the likes of Bruntwood would be in pole position to take on the site, given the proximity to Circle Square and its other science and technology assets, Hampson added: “A number of people have said that to us and part of job this week is to make it absolutely clear it’s an open field.”
The design for the area is “loosely based” on a previous strategic regeneration framework put together by Bennetts Associates, but Hampson said the University “can do better” than the existing framework.
“Time has moved on since the SRF was approved and the city has changed in some ways; we clearly have to discuss a new SRF with the council.”
Sheppard Robson and Arup have so far supported the University and advisor CBRE to develop the vision for ID Manchester, based on the principles of the SRF.
Following the OJEU process in the summer, a development partner is expected to be chosen by 2020; the University will vacate the North Campus in 2022 with many of its functions moving into the £330m MECD, which is currently under construction. A fresh SRF is likely to come forward in 2021, although no firm timescales have been put in place on delivery.
Hampson said the site would be brought forward on a phased basis over 10 to 15 years; a contractor for the site is likely to depend on the development partner. The search for a developer also includes the hunt for an investor or funder, with the University open to speaking to a single fund or a group of investors.
Retention of listed buildings, including the Sackville Building, forms part of the plans, although the future of the brutalist and modernist buildings on the campus is less certain, with Hampson only saying that the retention or demolition of these depends on the approach of the selected development partner.
A panel discussion at Manchester’s stand at MIPIM showcased fresh indicative CGIs of the development, with the university citing global examples such as MIT in Boston as an inspiration. The council is working with CBRE on its search for a development partner for the site.
Colin Thomasson of CBRE added: “To create a successful innovation district you need a highly connected dynamic urban location. The city of Manchester has all the attributes required with its strong knowledge based economy, a young talented workforce and world leading university.”
“ID Manchester is the last major development opportunity in a city centre which is seeing exceptional growth, and perfectly positioned to reap the benefit from the city’s next wave of economic growth.”
Joanne Roney, chief executive of Manchester City Council, said: “The University and the city have long been closely aligned. We have grown up together and share a spirit of innovation, revolution and entrepreneurship. ID Manchester will build upon this proud shared history.”
Place North West’s coverage of MIPIM is brought to you in association with Macbryde Homes