Hawkins Brown, UCLan
The student centre, designed by HawkinsBrown, is due to start early next year

UCLan outlines ambition to make Preston ‘first-class’ university city

Charlie Schouten

UCLan has set out ambitions to make Preston a “campus-city” by continuing its £250m masterplan with extensive public realm investment to tie Corporation Street, the train station and the city centre together.

The University is well under way with a plan to deliver a series of new buildings around Corporation Street and Mill Hill; two social zones with a combined value of around £10m have already completed while the £35m Engineering Innovation Centre is on-site with main contractor Bam set to hand over early next year.

A student centre is also planned, designed  features 78,500 sq ft over four storeys. A public square, taking in the site of the current Corporation Street junction and roundabout along with a series of vacant properties, covers around 90,000 sq ft. These secured planning permission in January this year.

Speaking to Place North West, UCLan’s chief operating officer Michael Ahern said the public realm was “around the size of Trafalgar Square and one of the largest squares to be built in the country for a long time”.

He said this would help to “reinvent and create a heart” for the campus, with ambitions to link the campus together with the city to make Preston “a first-class university city”.

“We have an ambition to do the highways all the way up Corporation Street through to the train station,” he said. “Clearly this isn’t our land and we have no responsibility for it so it might seem like an odd thing to do; but we’ve been in Preston for 190 years and will be here for another 190, so the greater contribution we can make to the city the better.

“If we can really reinvent that corridor and create a great access to the city and the university, we’ll be happy to help.”

He added UCLan would be looking to work with local stakeholders to “recreate Friargate”, extending the city centre through to the university, with the local authorities already showing interest in improving public realm around the city.

The student centre is designed by Hawkins\Brown with a professional team including BDP, Aecom, Plinke, and Planit-IE; Ahern said this was due to start on site early next year alongside the public realm works.

“The student centre an 18-month build, and that will be under way at the same time we’re starting to work on the highways, and then everything should be complete by the end of 2020 – given we started [the masterplan] in 2017, to finish the whole programme by 2020 is a very quick build,” he said.

“The construction cost of the student centre is around £35m as an estimate put together around a year ago, based on it being a steel-framed building. We’ve had our responses back from contractors – we have half-a-dozen contractors and we’re in the process of shortlisting those.

“We think that we will get down to three contractors in the next few weeks and are currently making sure we do everything properly – legals, audits and so on – and we would like to award a contract, or at least get down to final negotiations over the next few months, to get a contractor on site early next year.”

The university is already undertaking extensive utilities works to de-risk the project; this will complete before either contractor is selected to give both a “blank canvas” to work from.

Ahern said there were “16 different utilities” underneath the Corporation Street roundabout which will need to be diverted ahead of the square and student centre starting on site; this includes a cable which supplies electricity to one side of the city. A contractor is expected to be chosen for the public square later this year.

  • Look out for an in-depth site visit report from UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Centre on Place North West tomorrow

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