A sideways look at the deals and plans shaping the region over the past month.
Property Alliance Group’s new residential project close to Manchester Piccadilly looks the business. But really, what’s the name Oxygen all about? As with PAG’s Axis, it seems more like a team name off The Apprentice. Terrible names in Manchester seem to be catching at the moment; how about this guff from Bruntwood and Select Property Group on Circle Square, its new brand for the former BBC Oxford Road site: “The name is an intentional contradiction that invites curiosity and perfectly fits the vision for the area.” Oh behave. Then there’s The Colony in Wilmslow, because people really want to be seen as ants or prisoners. Let’s not even get started on The Honeycomb or Tempest in Liverpool…
Peel’s renaming of its Pomona Wharf residential project to Manchester Waters comes as a relative delight. It’s a monster of a project at potentially 3,000 units, and there are big flat schemes everywhere right now. Salford this month approved Silverlane’s 300-apartment Norton Court (how is a 34-storey tower a court?) in Greengate, and 383 apartments in Adelphi Street by Beaumont Morgan Developments, while Fred Done has lodged plans for 405 apartments at the Black Horse site, on top of 380 flats he has approved at Trinity Way. Of course, we have faith that all those solemn “we can’t just throw tat up like last time round” promises will be held to, but are prepared to take planners on a reminder walk round some of the more egregious examples if it helps.
Chinese money really is the new Holy Grail for towns and cities. Manchester’s getting along very nicely with Beijing Construction Engineering Group, while Wirral Council seems determined to get Sam Wa building something, somewhere. Liverpool is in on the act with its Chinatown expansion. Now Rochdale is looking to join the party, approving the £50m conversion of the 200,000 sq ft Warwick Mill in Middleton into a trade exhibition space for Chinese exporters. Hong Kong developer G Suite Holdings reckons it has 19 companies signed up for Red Warwick (another ropy name) following a launch event in China. Good luck to them, but Peel couldn’t do it at Wirral International Trade Centre, which has since handed over to Sam Wa to finish, and nobody seems to have thought it worth pursuing at Manchester Airport, or Piccadilly where there are mills in abundance.
God loves a trier
If ever a story could be summed up by a headline, it was “Liverpool earmarks Pall Mall for offices, again”. A highly ambitious plan by Liverpool Vision in 2005 to create a £130m business quarter on a three-acre car park site at old Exchange Station was, well, too highly ambitious, and never happened, but let’s not get bogged down in negativity. Liverpool City Council is buying the site from the Homes & Communities Agency, and reckons it can provide 350,000 sq ft of offices, amid a wider 8.5-acre, 2m sq ft £200m project also including 30 Pall Mall and an NCP-owed site. Someone should get a knighthood if they can make that lot stack up.
All part of a masterplan
Manchester’s charging ahead, approving loads of stuff such as a Glenn Howells-designed Deansgate office (which couldn’t look more Glenn Howells officey if it tried, square jawed and broad shouldered) and Owens Park, along with three masterplans: Great Northern, Central Retail Park and Jackson’s Row. At Great Northern, which has never quite worked, the apartments and 85,000 sq ft of offices are all well and good, but 265,000 sq ft of retail, restaurants and leisure looks a big ask. Jackson’s Row – aka the Gary Neville Scheme that’s not Stock – is a pretty handsome mixed-use scheme with some impressive names attached. Surprisingly, it’s Central Retail Park in Ancoats that’s most exciting. Currently presenting a grim vista of cheapo big box retail between Royal Mills and New Islington, the site will see the retail shunted back and to the left, presumably behind some big trees, with flats, ground floor stuff and funky public realm at the front. Basically, it’s linking up the good stuff in Ancoats. What’s not to like?