Architect expected to beat four rivals to 12 000 m2 office and retail building in £500m city-centre regeneration.

Allies and Morrison is tipped to win the competition to design a mixed-use development at Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. The scheme, for developer Argent, is the final part of a £500m facelift of the city centre.

It is understood that the architect has beaten John McAslan & Partners, Lifschutz Davidson, Stanton Williams and Stephenson Bell to the £10m office and retail scheme.

The news comes in the same week that Allies and Morrison learned it had won the £100m scheme to redevelop the BBC’s offices at White City in west London, beating John McAslan and Ian Ritchie Architects.

The competition panel for the Manchester scheme included the city council; EDAW, which masterplanned the regeneration; engineer Ove Arup & Partners; Argent; and local practice Chapman Robinson Architects.

More than 70 practices entered the competition. Each of the five shortlisted practices was required to submit two entries, which were anonymous to avoid charges of favouritism.

Under the brief, the 12 000 m2 building will have to contrast with the proposed sculptural pavilion designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and EDAW’s redesign of the gardens area. The scheme is focused on a fountain and a floodlit catwalk that crosses the park and links the city’s Chinatown district to the northern quarter.

Infrastructure work has already begun, and work on the gardens should begin in September. The entire Piccadilly redevelopment is to be completed by May 2002, when Manchester will host the Commonwealth Games.

Manchester council began the regeneration of the area following the 1996 IRA bomb that tore the heart out of the city’s commercial district.

The council appointed a multidisciplinary team to masterplan the regeneration last May. Led by EDAW, it includes Ando, Chapman Robinson and lighting designer Peter Fink.

Argent was later chosen to develop the mixed-use project that Allies and Morrison is expected to design. The site is at the eastern end of the Piccadilly Gardens at Portland Street. This will be the developer’s first scheme in Manchester.

The council has begun work to link the Piccadilly area to the retail heart of the city, which reopened this year. The plans involve a £1.5m revamp of Market Street, the road that connects the two areas.