Daniel Lee

My Place | Altrincham

Altrincham might be the poster-child of how to make a high street successful, but it can’t rest on its laurels, writes Daniel Lee of Regional Property Solutions.

When I joined Regional Property Solutions in 2010 Altrincham was a very different place. It had one of the worst retail vacancy rates in UK with substandard offices and residential accommodation in the core and was most frequently described as a ghost town.

Zero to hero in the last nine years would be the most apt description now.  This turnaround has its roots in the improvements to the public realm and the market quarter. The regeneration of any town centre is as rare as hen’s teeth in the current market so it is not surprising that the town, awarded ‘Best High Street in 2018’ in the British High Street Awards, has attracted interest from other struggling town centres across the UK.

Altrincham Market, a major catalyst for the transformation, has created a flexible social space for people to get together.  This has given rise to a vibrant leisure scene with an increasing diversity of cuisines and niche bars opening over the last few years. One of the latest offerings a Cambodian restaurant Angkar Soul is trading its socks off.  The less frequented parts of town have also vastly improved with Kings Court attracting Libero and Batch, specialist craft beer establishments. The local demographic has always been good and now they have a reason to visit and stay in town rather than by-pass. Altrincham’s footfall is up and the vacancy rate is down from 20% in 2014 to 7% today.

But it would be naïve to believe that craft beer and sourdough pizza have been the only ingredients in the town’s turnaround. Trafford Council’s investment in the public realm along with the town centre’s business growth programme encourages businesses to occupy vacant units and has generated an influx of independent retailers.

These independents have brought a range of quality goods that you can’t buy online and reward customers with an experience that you don’t get sitting lonely, ordering on your computer screen without the town centre buzz and the bonus of an excellent choice of coffee shops.

There is certainly demand for well-pitched retail units in the town centre where we have recently sold two buildings on George Street.  Two units on Moss Lane have been let within weeks of coming on to the market and there is currently a high level of viewings, before practical completion, for a new development on Stamford New Road.

Altrincham certainly feels as though it is in a bubble in terms of demand when compared to uncertainty in the wider market.  But, big retailers such as House of Fraser and Debenhams may still be on the casualty lists.

Car parking in the town centre is also an issue but there are plans to improve this with a multi-storey car park on Regent Road; hopefully this will come soon enough to prevent a frustrated exodus to the Trafford Centre which is free.

Underpinning the town’s growth and success has been the increase in the quality of housing and apartments, not only the new but the conversion of offices to residential.   This potential was spotted early on by developer Novo who now along with other creative and forward thinking developers and architects, who like us work in the town centre, have a vested interest in seeing the transformation continue. It is encouraging that they are not looking at sites in isolation but in the wider context of the whole area and its community. There appears to be a much more harnessed and strategic approach to town centre development.

We will also be seeing the revitalisation of the forgotten roads of Central Way and The Causeway.  The lower market development and the Everyman Cinema on Central Way is acting as a stimulus for further schemes along the road and the Causeway is attracting developer interest following some public realm improvement plans formed by Trafford.

Altrincham’s higher profile is also attracting a wider pool of potential business occupiers.  We have had a marked increase in the number of enquiries from MDs and CEOs tired of the daily commute into the city centre seeing Altrincham as a real alternative. The expanded Metrolink and motorway access provide excellent communication links. It is also getting the thumbs up from employees with its retail leisure offering. With 60,000 sq ft being refurbished to a high specification, it beats the city commute and is infinitely more appealing than a business park in the middle of nowhere. Grade A office rents have significantly improved in the nine years I’ve been here, from single figure quoting rents to now £23/sq ft for the latest schemes.

But the town cannot sit on its laurels. Trafford Council continues to be proactive not only working with developers but its acquisition last year of the Grafton Centre, one of the last cogs in the wheel of regeneration in the immediate town centre core, is showing not only its confidence in the town but its commitment to its long term future as a destination in which to live, work and visit.

The real challenge is to sustain the momentum.  But I believe there is the requisite enthusiasm and entrepreneurship behind all the key elements for the town to build on its success.

Your Comments

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Great assessment Dan. Improvements generally in and around Altrincham needed for cycle access rather than encouraging car traffic needs to be a key aspect to Alty strategy.

By Altyresident

I’m dead against any further pedestrianisation in Altrincham town centre. People forget that traders need access to DIXONS… They do say it’ll help people in wheEEEeelchairs…

By Alan

Great article. Well considered and balanced. Pleasure to see Altrincham flourish. Well done Dan for your contribution to this.

By Chris

Excellent article to read but have reservations about expanding car parking supply. I’d like Trafford to make substantial improvements to cycle infrastructure over the next few years in and around Altrincham. I find the current provision quite shocking. So much potential to create an even more vibrant town centre if surrounding residential areas were connected to Altrincham with decent cycle lanes.

By Matt Bromley

I agree with Alan, but we also need more diverse foods eg Beans in a Mug, and Chocolate Moose to keep the wolf from the door so to speak

By Michael

This is a load of rubbish. I was born here in 1932 and grew up in a proper “market town” What we have now is a place of cafes and eating places. No butcher’s. No greengrocers. No fresh fish shops. No market. Ask any older people they will say the same.

By Brian O'Hara

@Brian O’Hara – Now I might be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure I’ve used both of the butchers, the fishmonger, and the greengrocer which are all on the market, in the last year.

By Del Boy

“By Brian O’Hara – This is a load of rubbish. I was born here in 1932 and grew up in a proper “market town” What we have now is a place of cafes and eating places. No butcher’s. No greengrocers. No fresh fish shops. No market. Ask any older people they will say the same.”
What absolute drivel. Either within, or close to, the market there are currently:
2 greengrocers
2 butchers
2 cheesemongers
2 bakers
1 fishmongers
0 candlestick makers

By Billy Bob

@Billy Bob – I’m not sure what planet Brian’s living on! On my most recent visit to the market, I took home an excellent hand poured candle. The candlemakers haven’t quite given up just yet!

By Green Rich

@ Daniel Lee ‘Car parking in the town centre is also an issue but there are plans to improve this with a multi-storey car park on Regent Road; hopefully this will come soon enough to prevent a frustrated exodus to the Trafford Centre which is free.’

That exodus happened in the late Nineties Daniel…. causing the issues in 2010 that you refer to, keep up lad.

BTW, local car parks that are becoming part of the new trend for “car park to residential” conversions not helping with the needs of the petrolheads ;-)

By TD

Whilst i totally welcome the boom in food, drink and entertainment venues in altrincham, and the gorgeous market stalls and happy vibe that has sprung up around the market hall area, i do agree with Brian O’Hara’s comment below to some extent.

I’ve lived here all my life and love this new social scene and cafe culture but it needs some balance. A butcher a baker and a candlestickmaker- well some basic trades anyway. We seem to be missing some of the basics that Brian mentions. There isn’t really even a shoe shop (unless you count jakes which doesn’t do it for me). Debenhams on it’s way out, House of Fraser in ruins and a lack of high st fashion stores means that i sometimes hike up to the Trafford centre (reluctantly – it drains my soul!). It feels like Altrincham is a dining destination only, when it could be a great shopping destination and also retain some of the old market stalls and traders that actually sell stuff people need. It should serve a whole diverse community – old, young, rich, poor – not just those who want to be seen eating something on sourdough and drinking miniture coffees ouside the latest semi-vegan cafe. I love altrincham. I love the progress and i’m participating with the other sourdough fans, but let’s not lose sight of the basics. Our town needs a bit of depth, its feeling bit one dimensional. There’s a strong possibility of Altincham disappearing up its own behind if unless it takes a fairer approach to serving its residents and visitors. (And as for affordable housing for locals like me…..non existent….)

By Podhopper

Hi the regeneration of altrincham was not due I believe to Trafford council but because of two amazing entrepreneurs who established the market hall.

By Rachel

Podhopper – “There isn’t really even a shoe shop (unless you count jakes which doesn’t do it for me).”

What about Clarks?

It really winds me up when people bang on about Alti just being a place for millennials scoffing sourdough, glugging craft beer and buying hemp dog bandanas. Yes that scene is thriving for the Instagrammers but the town still offers so much more.

Rough pubs, greasy spoon cafes, charity shops, Iceland, Next, River Island, H&M, Boots, Card Factory, Wilko, The Works, Millets, HOME BLOODY BARGAINS, travel agents, tattoo parlours, £8 a pop barber shops, hairdressers, Specsavers, bookshops, jewellers, bookies, Subway, banks, building societies, fish and chip shop, kebab house, amusements and even a sodding lap dancing club,

You can buy a pint for £5 in the market or less than £2 in the Malt Shovels. What a time to be alive.

The real success of Alti is that is does still cater for everyone – residents old and new, visitors, tourists and seedy blokes who fancy a lap dance.

By Billy Bob

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