And it’s goodbye from him…
Developer Argent is to close its Manchester office, leaving behind a local legacy ranging from the good (One St Peter’s Square, The Hive), through to “not sexy but important” (One Piccadilly Gardens), to the place-making omnishambles that is Piccadilly Place. Argent seemed mightily miffed at being frozen out at Manchester Airport, and this month pulled out of the running on the £550m Mayfield project. Argent’s long been one of the city council’s inner circle, so this departure might open up opportunities for newer kids on the block.
Sticky Toffee problems
Oh, Everton! Not content with completely Evertoning up their season with a limp finish, the football club’s latest grand stadium plan, the £300m Walton Hall Park project, has been binned after those involved realised, half a decade after everyone else, that the out-of-town retail it needed ain’t cutting it these days. Meanwhile, the towering web of steel that is Liverpool’s new main stand at Anfield will be ready for the start of next season, taking capacity to 54,000 and removing any excuses about fans not being able to get tickets.
Godspeed to BC Real Estate, newly formed by ex-WHR men John Barton and Gary Chapman. It’s always splendid to see consultants running through the nomenclature options before plumping for their initials, with previous examples including this duo’s erstwhile employers, and TSG, made up of Trevor Sloan, and (Andrew) Gardiner. Gardiner once offered some sage advice to his former DTZ colleague Brian Birtwistle on setting up his new venture: “You’ve got to call it Brian Birtwistle Consulting. People will remember those initials.”
Maybe the death of Liverpool offices has been greatly exaggerated. Bilfinger GVA’s Big Nine report said that the first quarter of 2016 saw the city rack up 90,000 sq ft of deals, the third quarter in a row it has exceeded its long-term average. A diminishing supply of options is the dark cloud on the horizon, warned the report, and while agents always, always say that, the office-to-resi trend continues, as the transformation of No.2 Moorfields completed this month shows. The traditional commercial core is beginning to feel more general, like any part of the city centre, raising the question of whether this will damage the area’s appeal to future office developers.
Approval has been given to a 500,000 sq ft expansion of Bentley Motors’ Crewe base on an 11-acre plot opposite the existing Bentley complex on Pyms Lane. With more than 4,000 staff, the car maker is the biggest employer in town. All good, but Crewe does need other strings to its bow. There are big retail plans, and recent investment in education. Can Crewe start to build an inward investment story?
Abu Dhabi-owned funder Mubala Development Company, who you may recognise from part-funding other Manchester projects like the Graphene Engineering & Innovation Centre, has pulled out of funding the £175m redevelopment of University of Manchester’s Owens Park student accommodation campus. The university is to re-think the scheme after construction tenders “substantially” exceeded the budget. So is this site workable, or is construction nationally hitting a new level of eye-watering costs? It might only be a matter of time before someone suggests using shipping containers, the regeneration cure-all of our time.