Indicative CGI for The Factory by Simpson Haugh & Partners produced as part of the St John's masterplan

Tenders out for £110m Factory

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Manchester City Council has launched the search for a design team to lead the development of the £110m Factory arts centre, which is due to open in summer 2019.

The construction of The Factory is part of the £1.2bn plans for the St John’s neighbourhood, which will see the delivery of up to 3,000 residential units, 600,000 sq ft of workspace, and a mix of hotels and cultural buildings.

St John’s is being brought forward by a joint venture between developer Allied London and Manchester City Council, following the acquisition of the 13-acre former ITV Granada site in 2013.

The Factory has been earmarked as the permanent home of the Manchester International Festival and will provide a venue for theatre, music and art events.

The centre will be funded by a £78m commitment from central government announced in the autumn statement last year, alongside money from the Arts Council and receipts from the wider St John’s scheme.

Speaking at the launch of The Factory at Old Granada Studios this morning, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said that centre would be “an institution the likes of which doesn’t exist anywhere in the world.”

He said: “The venue will be a flexible space, and could be something like the Royal Opera House in the morning, and the Warehouse Project in the afternoon.

“The practical start of the development of home is the launch of the bidding process. We are looking for a design team, but we are not looking for a design itself.”

Tender documents will be available through the council’s procurement site on The Chest. A team is due to be appointed by November, with a planning application submitted in May 2016, and a start on site expected in 2017.

Speaking to Place North West, Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, said that the design competition was wide open.

“We just want to appoint the best”, he said. “It’s not about names, it’s about quality. The design team needs to be creative but practical, and understand the importance of collaboration. The client is the council and MIF, and the team needs to be able to work to the very specific brief we have for this building to turn it into a living, dynamic product.”

A masterplan for the former ITV Granada site was approved by the council in October. The plan was developed by SimpsonHaugh & Partners for Manchester Quays Limited, the joint venture between Allied London and Manchester City Council.

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The Warehouse Project in the afternoon – my, this is ambitious!

Bit worried there isn’t a very clear concept for this space; it seems somebody has decided Manchester needs “something” so that something has been found.

By mancboi

Ha ha yes indeed, Warehouse Project in the afternoon what is he thinking? Does he know what goes on there. Odd thing to encourage, but hey ho, rave on Sir Richard rave on!


As the Guardian’s editorial said in December 2014 “…in the end, a city’s commitment to culture is more to be welcomed as a way of building community, as a repository for shared memories and as a fund of personal enrichment, than as a replacement for cotton mills.”
The name clearly is taken from Manchester’s past. I hope something of the spirit of that past can live in the Factory…. and that the new developments will link up with the Irwell – where Manchester’s trade and industry began.

By Paul Blackburn

I get the feeling Richard Leese has never experienced the WHP, they certainly never start in the afternoon, more likely they finish in the afternoon from the night before!

By MancWatcher

What they need to avoid at all costs is another Urbis, namely a great building with an ill defined purpose. Or another HOME, namely a great institution in a less than impressive building and a poor location. The city’s cultural credentials depend on getting this project right.

By Reader