The month in property | June

Festival season?

It feels like good news comes with a caveat right now, and two major Liverpool stories this month have that “this could be great, but…” footnote. The city council declared its intention to start early in 2017 on the 1.8m sq ft Knowledge Quarter extension, while also appointing K2 Architects to design a new “cultural garden suburb” at the tricky Garden Festival site, which last stalled in the 2008 recession. So what splendid news it is that we’re not amidst a time of crippling economic uncertainty, with hikes imminent in the cost of public borrowing due to credit rating downgrades. Oh, hang on…

Owen Street RenakerTall tales

Fun times among Manchester’s city dwellers. No sooner had the dust settled on former English Cities Fund boss Lesley Chalmers leading a revolt against an Alsop-building-on-stilts at Great Northern, than things kicked off further down Deansgate. The Beetham Residents Association is up in arms about Renaker’s proposed towers at Owen Street, although nobody’s buying the “traffic concerns” part of the argument. Renaker’s architect on the scheme is Ian Simpson, also designer of and resident in the Beetham Tower. Like conversations in lifts aren’t awkward enough already.

Keeping up with Jones

Darren Jones’ move from regen director at Oldham to become managing director of the Ainscough family’s Himor Group looks an interesting one on both sides. He’s joining another family firm, having previously served 18 years at Orbit, with Will Ainscough to become executive chairman as the business gears up to realise its ambitions on tricky brownfield projects such as Carrington. Oldham’s had a good run, with key positions held by Charlie Parker, Jones and ex-council leader Jim McMahon, who is now in the House of Commons, quite possibly with his head in his hands. Hopefully, the old town will hire well again.

Place AparthotelCapital ideas

A big month for sparky developer Capital & Centric, which got its hands on Manchester’s The Place aparthotel, always an unexploited gem, adding to a portfolio in the Piccadilly area and making it a serious player in a part of town where there will be action for a decade, especially if HS2 happens. Planning was submitted for Kampus, its nearby joint venture with Henry Boot, while ex-Urban Splash man Tom Fenton has joined to add weight to the firm’s residential capability. Are C&C now the city’s blue-eyed boys?

Rock steady crew

Manchester has joined the Rockefeller Club. Hopes were raised on seeing this headline that it was a Marketing Manchester tie-up to grant business travellers access to the kind of racy New York establishment that Bertie Wooster used to attend while Stateside. However, it turns out to be the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network, which collaborates with leaders and experts around the world to tackle 21st century challenges. With the views of “experts” now summarily dismissed by the UK’s power elite, Manchester’s well advised to be global in its outlook.

Old Post Office and Cenotaph, PrestonSignature move

Signature Living, Liverpool-based developer of the Shankly Hotel and more besides, has entered the Preston hotel market, buying the historic Post Office from Preston City Council, a move built on confidence in its abilities to meet demand in a city not overburdened with boutique hotels, rather than just a nod to legendary Bill Shankly’s career path, you’d imagine. Signature is also looking to develop the Coal Exchange in Cardiff, which has become a political hot potato. With Welsh football in the ascendancy, it wouldn’t be surprising if it was named after Ian Rush or John Toshack.

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The difference is the city Council is spearheading these… better able to look long term than Langtree et al… new model that ploughs the profits back into the city…has worked with Echo arena/convention/exhibition centre. Liverpool now has a good track record on these big strategic projects.

By Alfie

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