Councillors are told delays and inflation are to blame for latest performance-centre price increases

Manchester’s flagship OMA-designed performance venue is facing further cost increases that could push its price tag above £230m, city councillors are being warned.

Factory International, which is being built by Laing O’Rourke, includes a 1,600-seat theatre and a 5,000-capacity space called the warehouse. It was announced by then-chancellor George Osborne in 2014 and named to honour legendary record label Factory Records. A licensing deal means the cultural space will be officially known as Aviva Studios.

When the project secured planning permission in 2017 the budget was £110m, with £78m committed from the government. Costs steadily increased and stood at £210.8m as of October last year. According to Manchester City Council, total government investment in the project now stands at £110m.


Source: Mark Waugh/Manchester City Council

Festival Square, in front of Factory International at Aviva Studios

A just-published report from project client Manchester City Council says that the venue, which had been due to reach practical completion this month, will not now achieve that stage until September.

Councillors are being warned that further capital allocations totalling £8.7m will be required to cover costs up to July and that public realm works will now cost £1.1m more than previously expected, although they are classified as separate to the Factory International main building budget.

Members of the city council’s executive are due to approve that funding next week. However the authority has stated that “a final request for funding to complete the Aviva Studios project” will be brought to councillors in September.

“While that figure remains to be finalised it will be more than the amount being requested this month and will include the costs of the commissioning period and any changes in the construction final accounts,” the authority said.

A report to the city council’s Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee, which meets today, and members of the executive says “design challenges” related to the building’s complexity have required a team of 12 detailed-design architects to be retained to react to issues “in a manged way”.

While OMA is concept architect for the project, Ryder Architecture was drafted in as executive architect as part of a series of changes nearly three years ago which saw former Shard developer Flan McNamara brought in to get the job finished.

> Also read: Manchester’s new joy division: Factory International

The report said further work had been required on the secondary steelworks for the venue’s proscenium doors, to complete the inner panelling and repair humidity damage. It added that the installation of the final inner proscenium door between the warehouse and the theatre spaces had been delayed “due to a dispute with the door manufacturer”.

Other factors driving rocketing costs included material and labour price increases and availability within the supply chain, and the impact of “hyper-inflation” on the procurement and delivery of the final works.

Pawel Paniczko. Factory International 2022, Manchester, UK. Commissioned by Factory International - 29

Source: Pawel Paniczko

Factory International features a 1,600-seat theatre adjoining the so-called warehouse (to the right in the image), a 21m-high, 65m-long and 33m-wide space with a capacity of up to 5,000 people

Ahead of the meetings today and next Wednesday, city council deputy leader Luthfur Rahman said Factory International would be a “bold, visionary and spectacular” venue that would be a nationally and internationally important centre for art and creativity.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without difficulty,” he said. “For all the challenges it has faced – and who could have predicted that these would include being built during a global pandemic and against such a difficult economic backdrop – this game-changing venue is definitely worth the investment and worth the wait.

“Over time, naming rights and other partnership arrangements will enable the council to recoup the funds we have invested in this project in full as Aviva Studios makes an enormous wider contribution to the life of the city, the region and the UK as a whole.”

The centre has been open for the past few weeks as part of the Manchester International Festival ahead of its official opening this autumn.