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The Big Interview: Jackie Potter, Corridor Partnership

Simon Binns talks to the chief executive of Corridor partnership, about selling Oxford Road to the rest of the world amid tricky cuts in public funding

Written by . Published on September 20th 2010.


The Big Interview: Jackie Potter, Corridor Partnership

The Oxford Road Corridor can draw international inward investment despite funding pressures on some of the ‘softer’ elements of its proposed redevelopment.

“Venture capital is very important. Science and tech are high risk businesses but they need investment in order to grow,” she said. “We are working on alternative sources of funding. We can link our offering to the research capabilities of both universities. Other facilities in the region like Daresbury are complementary rather than competitive.”

That’s the view of Jackie Potter, chief executive of Corridor, the regeneration partnership responsible for revamping one of Manchester’s busiest thoroughfares.

The partnership recently announced that the Eye Hospital is to be redeveloped by Bruntwood and Manchester Science Parks (msp). The BBC also formally put its New Broadcasting House on the market last week, which could put 1m sq ft of new commercial space into Manchester.

Potter thinks Oxford Road can be the part of Manchester that draws in firms and investment from outside of the UK, by appealing to companies working in research, innovation and hi-tech industries.

“The Eye Hospital the first real example of what we’re about,” she said. “It’s a challenging building but we think there is demand for hi-tech accommodation. Msp has some international occupants and it’s about maintaining that momentum.

“The Eye Hospital is critical. It will be a shop window for other companies to see what we are trying to achieve. It won’t be an anonymous building; it will be very public facing. The nature of a building like the Eye Hospital is more likely to attract national and international businesses.”

Potter said five companies showed interest in redeveloping the Eye Hospital – four of them from the North West – and she was hopeful the BBC building, New Broadcasting House, would also attract similar interest. The building was formally put up for sale last week and agents at Lambert Smith Hampton are hoping to collect expressions of interest by November.

“The BBC building will probably appeal to a different range of companies,” she said. “It’s a bit more long-term. I’d imagine we’ll be looking at five to ten years to develop that site.

“It’s a flagship site. You could easily put 1m sq ft on there. The city would want something of scale on that site, although it’s too early to say what the mix should be. We will be led by the market.

“The Manchester Business School (MBS) redevelopment will be very important and we’d like to see more appropriate retail in the Corridor. It’s very student focused at the moment, but there is very little for people working there. I’d like to see more city centre operators out there. There is a potential for different types of retailers to move in.

“As for the rest of the Corridor...we have a vision but we have to work with market forces. The bus corridor is still important but we’re realistic. We may not see everything we hoped for but we feel it is still strategically important for the city region. Some of the softer stuff could get squeezed.”

Potter admits that public finding will be harder to come by, which means an increased role for the private sector when it come s to nurturing the type of research-led businesses she hopes Oxford Road will become a breeding ground for.

“Venture capital is very important. Science and tech are high risk businesses but they need investment in order to grow,” she said. “We are working on alternative sources of funding. We can link our offering to the research capabilities of both universities. Other facilities in the region like Daresbury are complementary rather than competitive.”

Potter admitted that some of the partners that make up the Corridor – specifically the Manchester universities and the council – would have to deal with ‘internal pressures’ in the coming month, although stressed they were ‘still committed to the vision.’

“We have to be mindful that there may not be as many jobs in those institutions in the coming years, but we can still do thing that help develop skills and training,” she said.

“We’re working with Cityco and Midas to look at things like retail development and selling our strengths in the health and research sectors.

“What we’re doing has already had an impact on local employment. Our initiatives have created 500 jobs. We’re sticking to our original footprint but we do have a strong relationship with areas like Moss Side, Hulme and Ardwick.”

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