Trafford changes tune over Altrincham’s Grafton Centre

In a decision branded “frustrating” by developers, Trafford Council is now looking to procure a joint venture partner to redevelop Altrincham’s Grafton Centre, after previously sounding out development managers for the site.

After buying the site in February last year, the council had previously asked for expressions of interest for a development manager role for the centre, which occupies a prominent plot at the southern end of George Street.

Housing a central shopping precinct, a 91-bed Travelodge, and numerous retail units, the site is one of the last major undeveloped plots in the town centre. There are a number of tenants that have leases in the centre running until the mid-2020s and any development would have to cater to these existing businesses. The building’s first floor also has planning permission for 18 residential apartments but this has to date not been implemented.

A number of high-profile companies are understood to have shown interest in the development manager role; these included Bruntwood; Capital & Centric; Novo; Patrick Properties; Quinta; Real Estate Developments; and Step Places, among others.

The council has now opted to go via a different route, and has issued a tender for a 50-50 development partner for the site; this, Trafford said, would bring on board “an experienced retail mixed use and creative team to provide a design solution which maximises the potential return on the investment and secures long term viability of the scheme”.

Patrick Properties Grafton Centre Altrincham Proposals

One of the expressions of interest put forward; this concept is from Patrick Properties

While it is understood parts of the expression of interest could be re-used in a fresh bid to become joint venture partner, a number of developers contacted by Place North West, said the move was “frustrating” given the differences between a JV and a development manager role.

“We put together an expression of interest based on being the development manager and sorting the funding ourselves, but if it’s a joint venture we probably won’t be interested in bidding again, which is frustrating”, said one. Others contacted by Place said “significant” time and money had been spent on an initial expression of interest to be development manager, before the council issued its updated tender.

The scheme is already running behind schedule; last year, the council said it carry out and review expressions of interest, followed by public consultation in December 2018.  A development brief was be agreed in January, while an invitation to tender was to be issued in February, with tenders returned by the end of April.

Under the fresh tender, which was issued last week, the council said there would be “a period of competitive dialogue for the preferred bidder when the detail of the JV proposal will be investigated and challenged with the bidder needing to demonstrate the strength of their financial offer, certainty of return and their experience of delivering similar high value and profile town centre schemes including taking a proactive lead on public consultation.”

The tender will be open until early August.

Cllr James Wright, Trafford Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “Trafford Council have been at the forefront of the regeneration of Altrincham town centre in recent years including the successful Market Quarter, public realm works and Altrincham Business Improvement District.

“Altrincham town centre continues to thrive and be a leading example for other town centres throughout the country. The council is now embarking on the next chapter of this exciting programme of change. We were greatly encouraged by the expressions of interests that were received for the centre in October 2018 and we are now looking forward to receiving formal bids to revitalise the Grafton Centre and the upper George Street area of Altrincham.”

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