Manchester has long been a home for visionaries and creative thinkers and nowhere more so than in its built environment. As part of Building magazine’s Manchester week, Carl Brown and Ben Flatman profile some of the main movers and shakers in the city.
From the Beetham Tower and the Trafford Centre, to Spinningfields, MediaCity UK and Salford Quays, the city of Manchester has long had a reputation for being a hotbed of construction and development activity.
The city, which was named as the third best in the world by Time Out in 2021, is seeking more development led-growth with ambitious net zero targets, plans for 30,000 zero-carbon social homes and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham talking about building ‘the Canary Wharf of the north’ in the city.
But who are the key movers and shakers in the construction scene in Manchester? After all Burnham’s ambitious plans will all be for nothing without the construction industry playing its part.
As part of Building’s Remaking of Manchester week, we’ve compiled a list below of some of the most influential figures from the world of property development, construction and architecture in the city.
Tim Heatley and Adam Higgins
Capital & Centric
The firm may have only been founded in 2011, but Capital & Centric is already one of Manchester’s best-known development companies. It claims that it has now completed more than two million square feet of commercial, residential, hotel and leisure development and is spending more than £2m a week on regeneration.
Capital & Centric was founded when local lad Tim Heatley, who had set up a property company called Centric Property Group, merged his business with Capital Commercial Properties, started by former Peel Group director Adam Higgins. The company has since made its reputation by converting disused industrial buildings into mixed-use and residential developments.
Key schemes include turning the grade II-listed Crusader Mill into a residential complex with more than 200 loft apartments and converting Talbot Mill, a former cotton-spinning mill in Castlefield, into 200 homes. Kampus, an award-winning £250m, 500-home, build-to-rent complex in the city centre near Canal Street, was developed in partnership with Henry Boot and designed by Chapman Taylor. It opened last year.
In August 2020, Heatley told the Manchester Evening News how he became a property developer and bought his first house. “I still can’t understand how I’ve gone from that semi in Salford to spending £2m a week on regenerating entire quarters and districts of the city centre.”
Manchester’s skyline is rapidly changing. Indeed a report last month by Solomon Investment Partners showed the height of the city’s 20 tallest buildings has increased by 37% over the past 10 years, double the rate of London’s. One firm that has contributed to this more than most is Renaker, founded by Daren Whitaker, a former quantity surveyor student at the University of Salford, who spent 18 years at Laing O’Rourke before founding the firm in 2006.
Renaker says it has nearly 3,000 homes currently under construction, specialising in high-rise developments in and around Manchester city centre. This includes the four-tower, SimpsonHaugh-designed Deansgate Square luxury housing development which provides more than 1,500 apartments. The scheme’s south tower, standing at 65 storeys, is the tallest building in the UK outside London.
Other projects include a refurbishment of the grade II-listed Royal Mills building in Ancoats and the 308-home Lowry Wharf scheme on the River Irwell.
So, why high-rise? Whitaker himself, in an interview for Manchester City Region magazine in 2015, said that “towers are the most efficient way to add vibrancy and mass to a city and accommodate growth. The changes on Manchester’s skyline are exciting and I think the city will look dramatically different in another 20 years.”
Ian Simpson and Rachel Haugh
SimpsonHaugh and Partners
One of Manchester’s most iconic buildings is the Beetham Tower (pictured below right) a 47-storey skyscraper developed by property investors the Beetham Organisation in 2006. The 554ft, slim neo-modern tower, which stands on Deansgate in the city centre, was designed by SimpsonHaugh, an architectural practice with deep Manchester links which has left its mark on swathes of the city centre.
Formed in 1987 by Rochdale-born Ian Simpson and Manchester-educated Rachel Haugh, the practice (known as Ian Simpson Architects until 2014) has designed well-known buildings including the 20-storey office tower No.1 Spinningfields and worked on the restoration of Manchester Central Library and the town hall extension between 2010 and 2014. Other projects include the all-steel residential skyscraper Number One Deansgate and the Shudehill Interchange transport hub.
The duo’s latest major project is an 11-storey office building at 4 Angel Square in the NOMA district for developer MEPC.
John and James Whittaker
Whittaker made money from quarries and cotton in the 1960s and 1970s before acquiring control of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1987. This allowed Peel to develop the iconic Trafford Centre shopping complex on land attached to the canal in the late 1980s, which he eventually sold in 2011 for £1.6bn. Whittaker’s son James (pictured above) joined the business in 1995 and now serves as the group’s executive director of development.
Peel developed Media City UK on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford, which was chosen by the BBC as its new home in the north. This in turn has persuaded other media organisations to move in. In 2016 Peel Land and Property announced plans to build 30,000 homes over the next 30 years.
Peel also holds shares in airports, sea ports and various other properties in and around Manchester and the North-west. In 2010 John Whittaker was named the most influential northerner by the Big Issue.
Once you have met Tom Bloxham it is hard to forget him. The charismatic co-founder of urban renewal specialist developer Urban Splash is larger than life, and rarely seen without his hat.
Urban Splash, which has won hundreds of awards for the architecture and design of its developments, specialises in regeneration. In recent years it has regenerated the New Islington area of Manchester, delivering 400 homes and 125,000ft2 of commercial space. Overall Urban Splash says it has spent £1bn on 60 regeneration projects, delivering 5,000 new homes and 1.5 million ft2 of commercial space.
Bloxham, who was once described by the Irish Independent as the “Steve Jobs of urban regeneration”, was awarded an MBE in 1999. He had a setback this year with the collapse of modular housebuilder House by Urban Splash, a joint venture with Japanese modular giant Sekisui House and Homes England.
Abu Dhabi United Group
Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, known as Sheikh Mansour, is well known to football fans.
The billionaire member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family led the Abu Dhabi United Group’s acquisition of Manchester City Football Club in 2008 and currently holds a 78% stake in the club through the City Football Group holding company.
High levels of investment have helped the club win 17 domestic trophies, including six premier league titles since the acquisition. But it is not just on the pitch that the sheikh’s cash has had an impact.
In 2014, ADUG formed a joint venture with Manchester city council called Manchester Life which claims to have delivered more than £400m of investment into building a football academy, and community, education, leisure and sports facilities. The firm says it has invested more than £250m to deliver 1,500 homes across nine new developments and two mill conversions.
However, the Manchester Life venture was criticised in a report by academics at the University of Sheffield last month. It said researchers had not found evidence of income for the council from the venture and accused the local authority of selling off land too cheaply. The council has rejected the accusation that the deal was not good for the city. It said it was always intended to generate long-term returns and it had been a “catalyst” for further investment in the city.
From the blue half of Manchester to the red: Gary Neville was a legend on the pitch for Manchester United but he is now making his impact felt on the city in other ways.
He founded GG Hospitality with fellow former Old Trafford footballer Ryan Giggs, opening football-themed bars and hotels, including the Stock Exchange, a boutique hotel in a former Edwardian stock exchange building in Manchester city centre.
In 2015 he founded Relentless, a development company that is planning a £200m mixed-use project called St Michael’s, on Jackson’s Row in the heart of the city centre. The 40-storey development includes a 200-bedroom five-star hotel, a spa, restaurants, a synagogue and a rooftop square. Relentless is partnering with local developer Salboy to build out the second phase of the scheme, including the 40-storey tower.
Neville may be a relative newcomer to the industry, but he has impressed many who have been in the development game longer. Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash told Insider Media in 2016 that Neville had impressed him at the Mipim property conference in Cannes.
“He came across with honesty and integrity,” Bloxham said. “His level of knowledge was surprising given his relative newness to the market. He’s a Manchester boy at heart.”
Manchester city council
Joanne Roney has an impressive track record in overseeing the delivery of major building projects in local government, including regeneration initiatives such as the Hepworth gallery project in Wakefield and the complete rebuild of the Park Hill housing estate in Sheffield in partnership with Urban Splash.
The latter project, which was designed by architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith, was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2013.
Her achievements at Kirklees council and Sheffield city council landed her the chief executive role at Manchester city council in 2017. On her watch the council became one of the first to declare a climate emergency in 2019, pledging to become a “zero carbon city” by 2038, 12 years ahead of the government’s target. Last year it invested £25.4m in decarbonising its own estate, which it says will save 3,100 tonnes of CO2 a year.
In February the council announced the launch of its housebuilding company, called The City. This aims to deliver 500 low carbon homes a year. A 128-home development in Rodney Street, Ancoats, will be the company’s first project.
Last year Roney was named chief executive of the year at the Muncipal Journal awards. The judges said she had “transformed the culture” of the local authority.
When asked in 2017 by the Manchester Evening News why she took the council job, she said: “Why Manchester? Manchester has always been, throughout my career, the place you went to. It was a hotbed of forward thinking – innovative, good ideas. You always had a connection with Manchester.”
RIBA president from 2013 to 2015, Stephen Hodder has been a mainstay of the Manchester architecture scene for decades. He shot to national prominence when his practice won the inaugural Stirling Prize in 1996 with the Centenary Building at the University of Salford. Since then, the firm has been through a number of transformations, but his commitment to good design, education and the future of the profession has remained steady.
Hodder has built a reputation that extends far beyond Manchester and the UK. Recent high-profile projects include the Welcome Building at the RHS Garden in Bridgewater and Duncan Point, a high-rise residential development in Stratford, east London. In 2021 he took up the position of professor of architecture at Manchester School of Architecture.
Kamani Property Group
At a relatively youthful 33, Adam, the son of fashion retailer Boohoo Group founder Mahmud Kamani, heads up the Kamani Property Group, which has been buying up property and developing schemes in the city and beyond.
Kamani, who grew up in nearby Chorlton, has spearheaded the planned development of schemes including the Ancoats Works on the site of a former furniture factory, which will deliver 193 homes, developed in partnership with Capital & Centric. Kamani is also building a seven‑storey office development in Dale Street in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Johnny and Paul Caddick
Johnny Caddick is the son of Paul Caddick, founder of the £380m-plus Yorkshire developer Caddick Group. Caddick Jr is now making a name for himself as managing director of build-to-rent firm Moda Living, a joint venture with Harrogate-based developer Generate Land.
The firm quadrupled its profit in the year to August 2021. This was achieved in part due to the completion of Moda’s flagship, the Ryder Architecture-designed 466-home Angel Gardens scheme in Manchester in the same year.
Moda, alongside its investment partner Apache Capital, says it has finance for its 4,000-home development pipeline. It has also announced plans for a 5,000-home joint venture with funder JJR and a £1bn suburban build-to-rent venture with fund manager Ares.
Although Moda has plans to build BTR homes in many British cities including Birmingham, Brighton, Leeds, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, its imposing 35-storey Angel Gardens scheme means that it is still most closely associated with Manchester.
Deborah McLaughlin has huge experience in bringing the public and private sector together to regenerate urban areas in Manchester and elsewhere in the North-west. Now a board member of Salford-based housing association ForHousing, between 2008 and 2016 she was the Homes and Communities Agency’s (Homes England’s forerunner body) executive director for the North-west.
She oversaw the regeneration of the Ancoats area of the city and was a member of the Greater Manchester housing investment board and Greater Manchester land commission. She became chief executive of Manchester Place, a joint venture between the HCA and Manchester city council aimed at assembling land and attracting investment for housing.
She worked for GL Hearn, part of Capita, aiming to – in her own words – bring “public and private sector partners together to deliver outstanding real estate solutions”. As well as her focus on Salford through ForHousing, McLaughlin is also currently a regeneration commissioner at Liverpool city council.
David and Alex Russell
Property Alliance Group
Since its foundation in 1990, Property Alliance Group has amassed a portfolio with a gross development value of £400m. Headquartered in Trafford Park, the firm has been active in developing property across multiple sectors including hotels, offices, residential and leisure.
Founder David Russell was joined in 2014 by son Alex, who serves as the group’s managing director. Notable schemes in Manchester include the 32-storey Oxygen luxury housing development in New Islington.
Russell Jr, speaking to Inside Media in 2017, said: “We want to do a lot more commercial property, and we have focused on Manchester because it has a good brand. We can be on site within half an hour for the schemes we have in Manchester and the rule of thumb is that we do not go more than an hour outside the city.”
Far East Consortium International
FEC, a Hong Kong-based developer, investor and manager of homes, hotels and commercial property, expanded into the UK and Europe in 2011. Mancunian Gavin Taylor, who had many years’ experience working in development and construction in the airport sector, became FEC’s regional general manager.
He has been a key player as FEC developed major projects including the £235m, 756-home Meadowside development in north Manchester and the 600-home Victoria Riverside scheme as part of the Victoria North regeneration project.
Select Property Group
Select Property Group develops build-to-rent apartments, along with student homes through its Vita business, and sells them to investors. It says it has sold 3,000 properties in Manchester alone, raising £890m.
Stockport-raised Mark Stott is the founder of the firm, which is headquartered in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. It has acted as master agent for Renaker on schemes in the city include the 52-storey, 414-home skyscraper The Blade and the 441-home tower Three60, billed as Manchester’s “first cylindrical skyscraper, offering panoramic views from every apartment”.
Select’s build-to-rent brand Affinity Living has completed several notable schemes including the 35-storey, 332-apartment Riverview development on New Bailey Street and the 188-home Riverside development near Spinningfields.
Stott, who is the owner of Stockport County Football Club, was branded “Stockport’s most successful businessman ever” last year by the local media.
Allied London Properties
Despite its name, development company Allied London Properties is associated most closely with Manchester. The firm, founded by Lincoln-born businessman Mike Ingall, is behind several major projects in the city, including the £1.5bn business and shopping district Spinningfields,, developed in the 2000s.
The project, spanning 20 buildings and 430,000m2, has been dubbed “the Canary Wharf of the north”. Allied London is repeating the trick with Enterprise City, a new district near to Spinningfields being created in partnership with Lendlease UK and architect Levitt Bernstein.
Chris Oglesby and Kate Vokes
Manchester-based office and retail developer Bruntwood was founded in 1976 by Michael Oglesby, and the family firm is now run by brother and sister Chris Oglesby, the chief executive, and Kate Vokes, a non-executive director and chair of the Oglesby Charitable Trust. Bruntwood owns several high-profile buildings in the city and has more than 100 properties across the UK. The group is now divided into Bruntwood Works, its workspace, retail and leisure arm, and Bruntwood SciTech.
In 2018, Bruntwood became the first property company in the country to sign up to the UK Green Building Council’s net zero carbon buildings commitment. It aims to have reduced the carbon intensity of spaces under its control by 100% by 2030. Bruntwood Works is developing the Alberton, an office scheme with a rooftop holistic wellness centre and the UK’s highest swimming pool on top of a commercial building.
Joe Dempsey and Phil Gannon
Dempsey + Gannon, pictured below
Joe Dempsey and Phil Gannon are definitely two players to watch. They set up their practice together in 2020 at the start of the coronavirus lockdown. They had been working together for 10 years prior to this, after meeting while at Tim Groom Architects.
They are working on a wide range of scales and building types, including small residential projects, schools, offices and larger city-centre housing developments. Their practice is people focused, with a keen attention to the needs of the end users.
As well as jointly running the practice, Dempsey works as a tutor and research associate at the Manchester School of Architecture. The practice recently won two Manchester Society of Architects 2022 awards with designs for a private house and new commercial space.
Tim Groom Architects
Tim Groom founded his practice from his dining room table in 2006 and has since grown the business into a well-established and respected leader on the Manchester architectural scene. Tim Groom Architects has built a strong reputation in a wide range of sectors, including residential, urban regeneration, student accommodation, hospitality and commercial.
Groom has developed a strong contemporary architectural language that responds to Manchester’s roots as an industrial powerhouse. His buildings often reference the old mill buildings and commercial architecture that still characterise large areas of the city centre.
Recent projects include the Blossom Street development within the Ancoats conservation area, close to the listed Daily Express building.
Building’s Manchester week
It’s holiday season and Building is taking a staycation in Manchester: this week we zoom in on the north of England’s biggest and most vibrant city, talking to those shaping its skyline, creating workspaces, building homes, designing space for leisure and fun.
On Friday we published an exclusive interview with Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester.
Further online features this week include:
- Monday 15 August: Tony Wilson’s legacy in Manchester: ‘A city where you can stay up north and be successful’
- Tuesday 16 August: A run-down of some of the movers and shakers in Mancunian development
- Wednesday 17 August: Mayfield Park is Manchester’s first new public park in a century
- Thursday 18 August: Manchester’s offices market has a host of new schemes in the pipeline
- Friday 19 August: Jodrell Bank has a new £20.5m visitor centre
You can also find all our Manchester articles in August’s print and digital edition out now
Andy Burnham interview: remaking Manchester
- Currently reading
Your guide to the key players shaping construction in Manchester