£20m funding boost for city centre project to support Manchester’s economic recovery

Manchester City Council has secured almost £20m of funding for a project to transform two dilapidated buildings and three railway arches into spaces for the tech and creative industries.

The Culture in the City scheme, which has been awarded £19.8m, is one of the first raft of schemes to be awarded money through the Government’s Levelling Up fund.

The project is focused around two different locations in the city centre’s creative district. It will see the Upper and Lower Campfield Market buildings, which are both listed but in need of renovation and refurbishment, brought back into life as an affordable tech hub with more than 1,000 workspaces. The City Council will work with its development partner Allied London to deliver the repairs and refurbishment works and, on completion, to manage the Exchange tech hub workspace as part of the Enterprise City district.

The Upper Campfield Market building is vacant and works on repairs will commence in March 2022. The Lower Campfield Market building is currently occupied by the Science and Industry Museum, who are working with specialists to ensure the safe decanting of objects from the Air and Space Gallery exhibits to new locations around the UK, returning those on loan to their home organisations and incorporating those from the Science Museum Group collection in future displays.

The Fund will also invest in three railway arches on Whitworth Street which will be converted to create a creative talent development centre for arts venue HOME, providing affordable co-working areas, a free rehearsal space and creative skills training for young people.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The Culture in the City project will help further develop the tech presence in Manchester – a key growth industry that has the potential to have an enormous impact on employment opportunities for local people, while bringing key city centre sites back in to use.

“Not only will this project bring back into use and preserve two historical market halls – and bring new use to some of the city’s heritage railway archways – but also highlights the vital contribution cultural investment has made to the city’s renaissance. The lasting impact of projects like these to the city’s economic potential cannot be underestimated as we recover from the pandemic.”

Michael Ingall, Chief Executive of Allied London, said: “We identified the Campfields project as an important part of both the Culture in the City and Enterprise City story, and we are really encouraged by this project now being recognised and awarded significant funding as part of the Levelling Up initiative.

“Our already successful and growing Exchange initiative at Department Bonded Warehouse at Enterprise City has been aimed at local tech start-ups and scale-ups, and its success has really both inspired and underpinned our vision for Campfields.

“Campfields will be built on an inclusive and affordable model and will truly be a project of scale and ambition. It will make an important economic and social impact, and create an opportunity for local skills to be harnessed by both establishing and attracting tech, digital and media businesses to this fast growing and evolving part of the UK.”

Jon Gilchrist, Executive Director of HOME, said: ““Manchester has one of the most exciting creative communities in Europe, but all too often the ambition of artists in the city isn’t matched with affordable rehearsal and development space. The HOME Arches project, as part of Culture in the City, has been developed in consultation with creative practitioners and will be a space that is genuinely by artists, for artists. Every year it will provide around 5,000 hours of free space for artists to develop their skills and work; hundreds of creative opportunities for young people; and working space for a new creative community. The project will also animate the empty railway arches on Whitworth Street West, helping connect them to the wider First Street development.”

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