Renaker ‘still on the lookout for sites’

Daren Whitaker, founder and managing director of the prolific Manchester residential tower developer, in a rare public speaking appearance, told a packed audience at a Forum for the Built Environment debate that even with a development pipeline of between 5,000 and 6,000 units he remains in acquisitive mood.

Speaking to Place North West after the panel debate, entitled ‘From terrace to tower and the spaces in between’, Whitaker said he was still keen to buy sites and had several under consideration. He declined to identify the target sites but said they were in “strategic locations”, and not necessarily next to existing sites where Renaker is already building.

Renaker has four active developments in Manchester and Salford: 300 units at Cambridge Street; 500 units at Greengate with another 350 pending planning; 500 units at Wilburn Street Basin; and 300 units on Water Street and Regent Road in Castlefield.

In the pipeline are 1,500 units in the initial phases of Owen Street as part of the wider Great Jackson Street framework approved by Manchester City Council in 2015 to cover 20 acres between First Street and the Mancunian Way. Around three quarters of the overall site is in Renaker’s ownership. The amount of residential is loosely defined in the framework, subject to detailed planning applications and the density applied to different plots, but could involve a further 2,500 units.

Renaker is in talks with Salford City Council over extending its footprint into Greengate on land currently used for surface parking, with around 1,000 further units are envisaged around a new park and cultural amenities.

Whitaker told 180 attendees at the FBE Manchester event that he had been selling units to date to fund further projects, rather than retaining stock as an investment. He was interested in striking deals with PRS institutional investors but also individual investors, to ensure a mixture of tenure.

Renaker has secured public finance from the Greater Manchester Housing Investment Fund and the Homes & Communities Agency for its projects. Yorkshireman Whitaker, a former director of Laing O’Rourke, founded Renaker in 2006 and moved its registered office from Leeds to Manchester in 2013, having acquired several distressed sites in Manchester from banks.

During the FBE panel discussion, Sheila McNerney, head of development at Salford City Council, raised the question of where all the new housing forecast for Greater Manchester to keep pace with economic growth was going to be built. She said Salford has a huge number of sites and expected to play a significant role in housing in the next 10 years, when she hoped more choice would be delivered to market.

McNerney also said a lot of work was going into planning the next phases of Greengate to consider the sort of place it was going to be and design the new park.

Also on the panel were Chris Shaw, senior development manager at Urban Splash, and Martin Ellerby, head of new business and innovcation at PlaceFirst.

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The elusive Mr Whitaker breaks cover! Whilst admiring Renaker’s ambition and output some of the buildings they’ve put up are of questionable quality (the two schemes in Ancoats especially). I wonder also if anyone was brave enough to ask him how Renaker managed to get away with a major change to the cladding on his Greengate scheme without needing to apply for planning permission?

Nevertheless, it’s positive to see a consistent improvement in quality and ambition of their schemes over time. I hope this trend continues with the Renaker set to deliver the city’s largest and most high profile residential scheme yet.


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