MIPIM 2011: First Street an "essential" opportunity, says Bernstein

THE delivery of Ask Development’s 20-acre First Street scheme is “absolutely essential” if Manchester is to capture the maximum amount of economic growth available to it, according to city council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein.

First Street had initially been launched at MIPIM in 2008 as a £750m project containing scores of office buildings and a large element of residential property.

However, the subsequent property crash has meant that only one office building, Number One First Street, has been developed on site to date, although work will soon start on a publicly-funded culture “hub” to the north of the site which will contain a new home for Manchester’s Cornerhouse arts complex and the Library Theatre.

Speaking at this year’s event, Sir Howard said that the Council had been working with Ask on “a changed profile for First Street”, which he believes is a vital scheme in linking the city centre with developments in the Oxford Road Corridor area.

Ask Developments’ chief executive Ken Knott outlined a timetable of development over the next two years which the firm has said will lead to an investment of around £100m into the site and the creation of up to 10,000 jobs.

The new 50,000 sq ft cultural quarter – currently the subject of an international design competition – will form the northern part of the site, while a new multi-layered “city block” containing budget hotel accommodation, offices and car parking will provide the southern anchor.

An 18m-wide, 300m-long boulevard will run between both ends through the middle of the complex, which will eventually be surrounded by new retail and leisure units and up to 1.25m sq ft of “mid-urban” office buildings of five and six storeys.

Ken Knott said: “First Street is set to become Manchester’s most vibrant new neighbourhood, with a compelling blend of culture, leisure, retail and office space, and all in a perfectly-located destination rich in major amenity and connections.

“A landmark new cultural hub with associated leisure and amenity retailing to augment the Number One building, its outstanding public realm and public art, will transform people’s perception of this location.

“Our commitment to create a genuine destination will dramatically increase the appeal of First Street to commercial office occupiers.  We have plans for up to 1.25m sq ft of office floor space and I am extremely confident that the pace of delivering that floorspace will accelerate significantly.”

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