The University of Manchester is preparing to launch its search for a partner to develop the North Campus site, formerly known as UMIST, into a “world-class innovation district”.
North Campus is a 29-acre site in the city centre, near to Piccadilly train station. It is currently occupied by the university’s engineering schools, which are due to move out in 2021 once the £330m Manchester Engineering Campus Development on Oxford Road is complete.
Working with its partner, the University said the mixed-use site will attract research, development, cultural and technology companies, as well as accommodating new residential space.
UMIST is much loved by architecture fans for its Brutalist and Modernist buildings, designed by Cruickshank & Seward. The site off Whitworth Street contains around 15 buildings, and their future is unknown; only the Victorian Sackville Building at the edge of the campus and railway viaduct through the centre are listed, and the 1960s buildings may or may not be retained.
A strategic regeneration framework drawn up by Bennetts Associates for the council last year drew criticism from campaigners including the Modernist and Twentieth Century Societies among others, who argued for the retention of the unlisted 1960s buildings, arguing they are as important to the built heritage of Manchester as listed Victorian structures.
After consultation, the council went as far as to say certain buildings have “medium significance” and “may have the potential to be retained and refurbished” but the viability of re-use will not be tested until detailed plans are drawn up. The key 1960s buildings include Renold and Pariser, and Jackson’s Mill which dates from the late 19th century.
According to the draft framework, the site could be used to create “a new hub for technology, learning, research and development”. The SRF described options that include:
- commercial and community buildings
- between 1,000 and 2,500 residential units
- 1.4m sq ft offices
- 130,000 sq ft retail and restaurant floorspace
- and up to 500 hotel rooms
The University will retain strategic and decision-making influence within the partnership. It will retain the south end of the site where it has significant research activity, including the newly built Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, and it will continue to hold the freehold for the whole site.
Plans are at an early stage and the university said the next step will be “a rigorous search” for a partner. The University has been discussing its plans with Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It is envisaged that work on the site will begin after the University transfers staff and existing facilities into its new MECD buildings in 2021.
Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of The University of Manchester, said of the development: “We will be launching an international search in the next few months to find the very best joint venture partner to work with us to develop this prime site with its landmark buildings and unique footprint in the heart of the city.
“The development offers the opportunity to transform this quarter of the city centre, generate thousands of new jobs and advance the reputation of the University. It will cement the reputation of the city as the place to be for technology, digital, research and development businesses – where the world’s most valuable ideas will be transformed into reality.”