The month in property: December 2015

Neil Tague

A sideways look at the deals and plans shaping the region over the past month.

Oxygen Allotments ManchesterWhat’s in a name?

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…

Falling flat

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.

Red WarwickShanghai supplies

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

Central Retail Park drawingManchester’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?

Your Comments

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Great group of articles.
Already looking forward to next months.

By eric

Well Neil, yes, a fair summary, but would be even better if you generated more positivity for Liverpool. Does the Manchester slant always have to mean Liverpool publicity is grudging or patronising.

By Paul Blackburn

The North West by virtue of having two of the great cities,is different to other regions.Birmingham dominates the Midlands,Leeds,Yorkshire and Humberside,Newcastle the North East,Bristol the South West and ;London the South East.The North West is an Anomaly in the respect that it has two places of a similar size and prominence.

By Elephant

I wish there was more being proposed in Liverpool. Even Leeds is seeing more office and residential development.

By Shak

Shak what on earth are you talking about…..The Liverpool skyline is constantly full of cranes ….Liverpool is one of the best looking cities in the Uk a city with history heritage status so building have to be right .

By Mark

Oh yes I forgot, more student halls and low rise studio apartment blocks. History Heritage status means we cannot develop any substantial buildings anymore? Are we living in a museum?

By Shak

Liverpool’s main growth in construction has been student accomodation, no worries there, now we are starting to see more variety
of schemes residential and commercial, at least something is happening it creates confidence, we are a bit slower than maybe some other cities but we are gaining in projects. I remember back in the 1980’s when discussing the lack of activity or appearance of it, by not having one single crane in the city centre with the Development corporation, we had an idea of hiring a couple of cranes to make the city look like it was not “dead” and place them in certain areas to provide some form of hope and lets be thankful companies are investing in the city..a building does not have to be really tall to be good as long as it is a great or beautiful looking building.

By Man on bicycle

On the importance of good buildings vs good overall aesthetics, well said Bicycle Man. Other cities (including Manchester but also London) are diminishing their appearance and livability.

Quite glad nobody went for hiring cranes in the 1980s – nothing reeks of desperation more than doing stuff purely for show, and local people would have inevitably got on to it and become even more disheartened.

Is there a way government can incentivize graduates to stay? It seems crazy that Liverpool is such a popular student destination but struggles so badly to retain the talent. Many people I have spoken to would rather stay there if it wasn’t for the lack of opportunities. Some kind of graduate enterprise fund? More help with “incubator” type developments?

Perhaps the best option for Liverpool is really latching on to Manchester a lot more effectively. The recent 30 minute trains to Victoria are a good start, but if these were high-speed and highly frequent, both cities would benefit enormously.

By Uni

The holding on to graduates,discussed below is a problem for all regional cities,although Manchester is bucking this trend,apparently.For half a century,not one government has invested anything of significance in any of our great regional cities and this is why they look a mess compared to their European counterparts.Poor transport,lack of infrastructure and lack of proper jobs.Manchester and Liverpool,should be on par with Milan and Munich and would be,if they hadn’t been left to rot,whilst billions has been invested in London and the South East.Why does Birmingham a city of over a million people not have an Underground? Why was Manchester without an integrated transport system until 1992? These cities contributed billions to the Exchequer and all their wealth was spent in the Capital.Manchester needs more Metrolink lines,to Bolton and Stockport and a line around the conurbation,so that people can go to Rochdale from Bury without having to go to Victoria.This government has made a pledge,but the money that they have promised is still peanuts compared to what they are spending in the South.All infrastructure resources need to bypass London for ten years.They have had enough.Talk is cheap and a billion for Manchester,a billion for Birmingham and 500 million for Liverpool,is a drop in the ocean.Give every major regional city the money earmarked for Crossrail two between them divided,depending on population,for transport.London will manage,it has enough train sets.Let us get our great regional cities moving again.In 2015 the people of Leeds, should not be travelling around on buses,or decrepit trains to get to work.Come on Cheshire boy,do something bold from the Treasury..

By Elephant