First Street plans for new cultural destination granted by Manchester City Council

Exciting proposals for a new arts and leisure cultural destination at the 20-acre First Street site, the single largest undeveloped site in Manchester city centre, have been approved today by Manchester City Council, with work on site expected to begin end of 2012 for 2014 opening.

The authority’s planning committee approved the transformational plans for First Street North brought forward by Ask Developments, the council’s development partner.

Ask has now been given the green light for a total floor space of 500,000 sq ft at the north of First Street adjoining Whitworth Street West, and is now set to deliver a new dynamic cultural and commercial heart of the city.

The proposals include a home for the recently-merged Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, a new 208-bed 4-star hotel, 30,000 sq ft of retail, leisure, food & beverage in 8-10 units, and a 700 space multi-storey car park.

As well as being a special addition to Manchester’s cultural life, the new arts centre will be a powerful catalyst for the next phase of First Street and its wider neighbourhood around Whitworth Street West.

The new venue will have a 500-seat theatre, a 150-seat second theatre space, 500m2 double-height gallery space, up to five cinema screens, learning spaces, digital and broadcast production facilities, a café bar, restaurant and workshop spaces. Dutch architect Mecanoo won an international design competition to design the new arts centre.

The 208-bed, 4-star hotel by global group Meliá Hotels International is a key occupier. The hotel brand is the young and cosmopolitan Innside, ranked No 1 by German consumers. The Innside hotel includes a restaurant, bar, wellness suite and conference facilities.
There will also be a spacious new landscaped square equipped to host a variety of outdoor events and performances.

Ken Knott, CEO of the Council’s development partner Ask Developments commented:
“The momentum is really building now and our joint plans with Manchester City Council will soon become a reality.”

“We believe that First Street North will become a genuinely unique, colourful and vibrant place capable of attracting a wide range of leisure, hotel and associated activities. The new cultural facility will form the centrepiece of this new destination, creating a distinct feel and atmosphere in this part of the city.”

Now planning permission has been granted, enabling works will start before the end of the year allowing the scheme to open in early autumn 2014.

First Street North represents an £80m investment, creating the ideal conditions to advance Ask’s highly sustainable urban office product which would provide the core employment opportunities at the site.

A planning application covering the 2.6 acre plot at the southern end of First Street has recently been submitted for the mixed use, retail-led element of the scheme.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The new cultural centre is an ambitious project which is acting as a catalyst to other job-creation activity in the wider First Street area. It is tremendously exciting that, against a difficult financial backdrop, Manchester is leading the way by making a major investment which is promoting vital economic – and creative – growth.

“The scheme is progressing at an incredible pace and it won’t be long before the new centre starts making an enormous contribution to the cultural scene in Manchester, the North West and the UK as a whole. The other developments which are being brought forward in First Street North show that the new home for the merged Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company is already helping attract further investment.”

Dave Moutrey, Director and CEO of Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, said: “It is great news that we have reached this significant milestone on the journey to create our new home. Getting here is testament to the hard work of our design team and our partners. Although there is still lots to do, this announcement brings the whole project a lot closer.”