Here we go again…
It’s rare for developers to ever actually say a market’s healthy. Nobody ever says “an idiot could do this and make money at the moment,” right? There’s some reading between the lines required, and one of the hints that we’re in the sun-kissed uplands of a cycle is the re-emergence of projects mothballed once things got sticky. February saw news emerge on Manchester’s Deansgate Renaissance Hotel by Urban & Civic, and the Island Site by the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund, alongside Altrincham’s Altair and the ABC Cinema in Liverpool. Has anyone got a book running on which are likely to reach completion before everything goes pear-shaped again?
We Cannes work it out
Liverpool, Manchester and Cheshire & Warrington have all got on the front foot, publishing their schedules for MIPIM relatively early – a nightmare for those who like to wriggle out of things by citing convenient diary clashes. Amid some interesting stuff, thoughts turn to what kind of reception St Michael’s will get when Gary Neville presents in Manchester’s new pavilion. The scheme has raised concerns among public, fellow developers and wider press, but MIPIM’s as friendly an audience as you get, with dissent virtually unheard of. It might depend on who turns up, of course.
The ‘gate leap forward
Another story that’s been running longer than The Mousetrap is Chester’s plans for Northgate. Fingers are being crossed all over the place that House of Fraser signing up to anchor the retail element, together with confirmation of a new improved Crowne Plaza hotel, means that the scheme might just happen at last. There’s the small matter of funding still to sort out of course, but things are at least moving in the right direction. Hopefully Northgate stories can actually be accompanied by photos, rather than CGIs, within a couple of years.
No argument here with the possibility floated by The Economist’s Bagehot column that Manchester would make the perfect capital city. Manchester Central was mentioned, but the part declaring that “unused or underused mills” would be “perfect venues” for Government departments should be applauded purely for the delicious prospect of cosseted ministers and Sir Humphrey types swooning like Victorian aunts on being shown their edgy new digs. Exposed services, “collab areas”, some Stone Roses lyrics on the walls – they’ll love it. Whoever saw Ancoats emerging as a seat of power?
A recent convert
Inspired Investments’ £5m swoop for Sim Chem House in Cheadle Hulme, which Cheshire-based commuters may mentally refer to as “that big lump next to Cheadle Hulme station,” might show that office-to-resi PDR conversions are not all about the city centre. This month also saw completion of the conversion of Acre House in Sale into 76 flats. Any under-rented office block in the South Manchester belt looks up for grabs; those sitting on better stock will be smiling as the cheap competition disappears. At last, a break for those plucky Cheshire developers.
Ups and downs
Liverpool 2, the £400m deepwater facility launched in late 2016 by Peel Ports, hasn’t been without its headaches, and you could have heard the collective “GAAAAHHHHH” across the region this month as news emerged of a still-unexplained sinkhole opening up at the berth. Early days yet eh. Better news from the energy branch of Team Whittaker, with PowerHouse signing on to develop an energy-from-waste plant at Protos, the Apprentice team-style brand for the Ince Marshes site. Childish puns about energy-from-waste will have no place here.