There’s no lack of ambition in Preston these days and January saw Eric Wright appointed on a £25m tram project, the University of Central Lancashire’s £70m student centre approved, and steelwork reach completion on the university’s Engineering Innovation Centre. Bolder yet is a 20-storey student accommodation tower, proposed by ASSH Investments, an announcement only rivalled by Bolton talking up Church Wharf – a 2008-mothballed scheme – as potentially the location of “an iconic tower”. One applauds the ambition, but best of luck to all involved, you might need it.
On your Marks
Stately retailer Marks & Spencer is causing furrowed brows with its reluctance to commit to space in Chorley and Rochdale. M&S committed as a Rochdale Riverside anchor in 2015, and now wants to row back, but the council aren’t backing down so this might get messy. M&S, which also skipped out on Oldham’s Princes Gate in 2016, is wavering on buying into the £17m Market Walk extension in Chorley, on which Eric Wright is now lined up to start work as the council takes a Field of Dreams-style approach. Reel Cinemas, which is to anchor the project, is also moving forward with schemes in Kirkby, Blackburn and a certain Rochdale Riverside.
With posh cinema chain Everyman on its way to Altrincham and Urmston’s market plan moving, Trafford Council isn’t hanging around, pressing the button on a new masterplan for Stretford. Sports feature heavily, with the University Academy 92 site, along with a replacement for Stretford Leisure Centre, new football pitches and a proposed training ground for Salford City, the club owned by the ever-busy Class of 92 lads. What to do with the Essoldo cinema site though? It might take something ingenious to make it workable at the glorious old pile, in what’s not exactly an “Everyman” type of place. Might be worth giving Reel a ring.
The property industry might not often give thanks to newspaper groups, but Trinity Mirror’s Liverpool dealings might win a few approving nods around the city. The Liverpool Echo’s move, announced in December, means that 5 St Paul’s Square will be full for the first time in its nine-year history, while an application is now in to re-work what it leaves behind in Old Hall Street. There’ll be some offices and shops within the distinctive podium, but converting the long-empty 18-storey tower into 207 hotel bedrooms, with Starwood involved, is the big win, appearing an ideal fit in a hotel market that continues to boom.
It can’t happen that often that an architect hears back from Historic England that his scheme does “less than substantial harm” and considers that declaration “great progress,” but life isn’t simple on Manchester’s St Michael’s project. While HE notes the progress made by Hodder in slimming and smoothing the original Make proposal, it still gently points out that at 39 storeys it’s a whacking great big scheme on a sensitive site. The upside for the St Michael’s team is, of course, that HE don’t dish out planning consents. With the consultation window about to slam shut, the aim is to get the scheme on the council’s planning committee on 8 March. What fun that day’s going to be.
Talkin’ bout a revolution
Is Chester Northgate closing in on becoming a reality? A public inquiry into the proposed compulsory purchase of buildings is due to kick off on 7 February and should be done by the end of the month, at which point there might be more clarity on the way forward. News hasn’t exactly been slow since a September 2016 consent, it’s just that the whole thing dating back to years before a 2011 masterplan makes it feel that way. This month, Tapas Revolution signed up, which is nice, but getting restaurants to Chester has never been the hard part.