NW 2013: Changing tracks

In association with MC2

MC2 The foundations are being laid for Manchester's next development boom in a series of transport projects, but is the property world fully aware?

For developers of big ticket schemes, and their investors, decisions on where to focus resources and capital are based on short-term market conditions, but also on their best estimates as to how dynamics might improve – or not – over the medium and long term.

No doubt the Chancellor's Autumn Statement will form a key part of their deliberations, and, despite the government's commitment to waive empty business rates for new build development, its somewhat disheartening predictions that the UK will not balance the books for another six years will do little to instil confidence in the development sector.

Adam WhiteDoes this mean that a developer's only option is to sit twiddling his thumbs for another half decade, or does he gear up now ready to identify opportunities, forge new alliances, make strategic investments and prepare for the inevitable upswing?

With the current climate awash with pessimism, little attention has been paid to some hugely positive forthcoming developments in the region's transport infrastructure.

The Northern Hub rail investment will see the Ordsall Chord connect Manchester's three central stations, with Victoria being completely refurbished, two new platforms added at Piccadilly, plus new tracks and electrification of existing lines to speed up journey times across the North. NOMA will be a big beneficiary.

Manchester Airport has room to grow its current annual passenger volumes from 20 to 50 million, with access set to be dramatically improved with the new A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road and A556 bypass. This augurs well for the game changing Airport City scheme.
Metrolink's expansion continues apace. Rochdale and Ashton will next year join the network, following Oldham in 2012, with construction well underway on the Manchester Airport line through South Manchester and Wythenshawe.

Plans for the Second City Crossing have also been approved, to connect Victoria to Salford Quays and Altrincham via a revamped St Peter's Square, standing in the shadows of the One St Peter's Square on the site of the former Elisabeth House and the refurbished Town Hall and Central Library.

To compete on the international stage cities need expansive and efficient transport infrastructure. This only serves to underline the importance of these developments to Manchester.

Greater Manchester already offers an enviable list of key strategic sites which can unlock significant new opportunities over the next decade. By virtue of their proximity to existing and new infrastructure, NOMA, Granada, First Street, Siemens, Airport City and Grand Central are well placed to generate much needed economic growth.

These are just the known quantities. No doubt canny developers are already spotting opportunities ready to be unlocked with the support of those entrepreneurial investors who understand that development is typically a long but rewarding game.

2013 is the time to plan, to begin to think more positively about the benefits of Manchester's improving transport network. Be bold, seize the opportunity and invest. Get it right and there are fortunes to be made down the tracks.

  • Adam White, associate director, planning and development, Jones Lang LaSalle in Manchester

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