Capital&Centric aims to repurpose Wigan’s modernist icon into business community

Wigan Civic Centre

Manchester developer Capital&Centric is behind plans to repurpose Wigan’s iconic Civic Centre to provide incubator space for SMEs.

In partnership with Wigan Council, the developer’s plans for the modernist concrete building that has sat at the heart of the town since the 1970s, are part of its plans to deliver design-led offices in Greater Manchester’s towns, providing businesses with a cost-effective alternative to a city centre base.

This is Capital&Centric’s first foray into Wigan and sees it repurposing the imposing modernist building which was former offices owned by the council. Plans for the space will be geared toward delivering incubator spaces for start-ups, co-working and small businesses, alongside larger spaces, coffee shops, outdoor decked hangouts and a roof garden.

Early ideas also include an impressive double-height entrance that celebrates the concrete bones of the historic structure, as well as new planting to introduce greenery to contrast with the concrete frame.

John Moffat, joint managing director of Capital&Centric, said: “Who says Manchester has to have the monopoly on cool work spaces?

“Post-pandemic, people are re-assessing where they want to work, and this space could easily provide a base for ambitious and creative start-ups who want a cost-effective alternative to the city centre or somewhere closer to home.

“We’re suckers for a restoration. We’ve as much respect for these bold 70s creations as we do the majestic mills that have a hundred years on them.

“They’re part of the architectural narrative of the nation and – at a time when loads of these mid-century concrete buildings are being flattened – it’s important we preserve what we can.”

He added: “The bones of the civic centre are solid, it just needs some vision to create the next chapter. We want to prove we can deliver one of the best office spaces outside of Manchester, with creative spaces where people want to hang out, greenery and sensitive design that elevates the original features.”

The modernist building on Wigan’s Millgate was originally unveiled by the town’s mayor, John Farrimond, in 1970, with council services staff based there over the decades. Capital&Centric plan to restore it in two phases, boasting 32,000 sq ft of workspace when completed.

Not only are restorations great for the character they offer, re-use of existing buildings is seen as a key component on the road to net zero, reducing embodied carbon by repurposing old, rather than building new.

Capital&Centric’s previous concrete restorations include Kampus, the garden neighbourhood near Manchester’s Canal Street.

There, it kept and restored the 60s concrete tower block, once home to Manchester Metropolitan University, into new homes as well as a concrete bunker on stilts – The Bungalow – into a village hall-type space for diverse pop-ups. Elsewhere, it delivered Bunker, turning a concrete storage unit in Liverpool into a stunning workspace that went on to win prestigious awards from RIBA and Architect’s Journal among others, including Tempest.

David Molyneux, executive leader of Wigan Council, said: “The Civic Centre building is iconic in Wigan and is an excellent example of modernist architecture. We’re delighted to be working with Capital&Centric to bring the building back into use for the benefit of the borough and local businesses.

“There’s lots of exciting projects taking place in Wigan town centre at the moment as part of our strategic regeneration framework, including the redevelopment of the Galleries, Wigan Pier and Eckersley Mills, along with the Heritage Action Zone project on King Street. Together, these projects will help support the regeneration of Wigan into a place where people choose to live, work, visit and invest.”

Work on initial designs for Wigan’s former Civic Centre is now under way, with a planning application expected to be submitted later this year.