Our ambitions for our first development in Manchester are unlimited, writes Jacob Loftus, founder and chief executive at General Projects.
At Pollard Street – a five-acre plot of land by the Ashton Canal in New Islington – we are determined to help Manchester’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a world-class sustainable workspace campus aimed at supporting and enabling the growth of home-grown small and medium-sized enterprises.
Surrounded by two acres of beautifully designed, accessible and ecologically-rich green space, the campus will also directly benefit the local community in numerous ways through a broad range of innovative ‘give back’ initiatives.
At General Projects we passionately believe in working collaboratively with the local community to deliver incredible places. Over the last year, as we prepared our planning submission, we spoke to more than 500 people – local residents, businesses, grassroots organisations and charities.
This process is not the end for us by any means, and should we receive a positive outcome at planning committee, we are committed to maintaining a frequent dialogue with local people alongside true co-creation of public spaces.
One of the founding principles in our business is that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. We know that property developers don’t always have a great reputation, principally because they don’t take a long-term view and often break their promises.
We take the reverse position and are determined to deliver not only an incredible place to work, but a beautiful, safe and accessible space for everyone to enjoy. We’ll be investing £5m in the public realm at Pollard Street – including opening-up access to the Canal – and creating dedicated spaces to learn and play too.
Beyond the development of the land, we are committed to delivering a transformational and economically important place, generating nearly £8m of social value over a five-year period.
While Pollard Street will be an inclusive, modern, innovative and sustainable commercial destination – bringing over 3,500 jobs to an incredible Manchester neighbourhood – we also want to ensure that young people living nearby are welcomed, inspired and part of our journey too.
We have formed a new Community Wealth Partnership with Manchester City Council, to deliver of a range of targeted initiatives. This includes mentoring programmes for local young people and businesses, free workspace for local start-ups and apprenticeship and internship programmes to tackle local unemployment.
There will also be commitments for occupiers to generate over 5,000 hours of community voluntary work per year and a programme of regular events including the sharing of advice and knowledge at school open days to skills and training events.
Every company who comes to Pollard Street will be asked to share our commitment to giving back and to support initiatives such as mentoring, training, employment or offering an apprenticeship.
This is not just a concept. In fact, we’ve seen at our other workplace communities how the majority of the businesses we work with want to put something back, but often don’t have the time or the resources to do so. So, by acting as an enabler, we pick up this slack and make things happen.
For endeavours such as these to endure, collaboration is key in order to achieve a lasting legacy. That’s why our work engaging with local delivery partners is so crucial to our future plans. We’re proud to have already established close relationships with local schools, grassroots organisations and community charities that will help ensure that our social value outputs will be delivered in the most targeted and effective manner.
Beyond this, we’ve adopted a ‘Manchester-first’ procurement policy, with at least 25% of supply chain spend to take place in Greater Manchester and all permanent employments placed at Pollard Street from nearby areas with high deprivation. During construction, an estimated £200,000 in social value will be generated from apprenticeships, work experience days, site open days and other voluntary, community and social enterprise commitments.
The sustainable credentials of Pollard Street are a crucial element of our vision. We have implemented a car free policy to promote use of low carbon transport infrastructure and an innovative low-carbon approach to construction and operation. Over 50 new trees will be planted on site and 550 bike spaces will be provided as the development delivers a 30% net gain in biodiversity.
We feel we are breaking the mould at Pollard Street. Our planning application was submitted in the midst of a global pandemic and we do not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. However, we’re confident that our development can play a key role in supporting the Greater Manchester economy and the region’s communities for many years to come.
In times gone by, this historic part of Manchester was the workshop of the world, the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution.
We want Pollard Strret to not only be the factory of the future, a location of choice for modern pioneers, creators and makers. But also a place with a heart and soul.
Photo Credit – Supplied