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The Corn Exchange To Become All Food

Jonathan Schofield on a new plan for the failed shopping centre

Written by . Published on August 8th 2013.

The Corn Exchange To Become All Food

SIMON Green, asset manager at Aviva Investors, says: "The Corn Exchange is not working as a shopping centre that's clear. We want to start again by focussing entirely on food right across the building."

We're going to allow the Corn Exchange to communicate with city on all three sides. At the moment there's very much a front on Exchange Square and a back at Cathedral Gardens. This doesn't make much sense

"To achieve this," Green continues, "the whole building will close from February 2014 to November 2014 so we can complete the redevelopment in one go. We are negotiating with existing tenants at present about how we achieve this."

The poor old Corn Exchange has never worked properly since an unfortunate conversion to a shopping centre post IRA bomb in 1996. For reasons only known to marketing mandarins, the owners at that time decided to get rid of a name embedded in city history and go for The Triangle instead. A shape. A mistake.

The owners then went crazier and imposed the world's ugliest metal structure inside the building to host that rare and distinctive business that drags punters from far and wide, a Caffe Nero. They also employed the hapless metal-working sculptor, Mel Chantry, to fashion bizarre twisted structures impeding footfall to the building. Then they got rid of all that and called it the Corn Exchange again. 

It's been bloody exhausting. 

Exchange Square facade as it will look after redevelopment

Exchange Square facade as it will look after redevelopment - all neatened up

The new food plan makes sense given the Corn Exchange's location. It's also a £15m way of rebooting the old building fully. 

As Green says: "This is a great location in the city, surrounded by attractions, with the second crossing Metrolink station due to be located right outside the Corn Exchange. We have the National Football Museum on one side, with Victoria Station being refurbished beyond that and NOMA close by too. We are in the heart of the city. We think a good quality food hall with a range of providers will work well."

So what type of operators does Green want? 

"We already have Zinc, Tampopo and Salvis and they're a good measure of what we are trying to achieve," says Green. "It's not going to be fine dining but its going to good quality, it's not going to be Arndale Food Hall. We also want the best of local operators and and maybe a few name restaurants that aren't represented in Manchester."

And what of indies? The Corn Exchange was once a cracking bric-a-brac arcade of crazy emporia from medals to rare LPs from crystal gazers to fashion start-ups. If Salvis can prosper here as a good food indie couldn't others do so as well?

Green answers cautiously. "Of course we'd like good quality independents if we can fit them in the overall offer. The basement we want to be a very exciting space with maybe an artisan bakers for instance, but we also want good brands too."

New look

New look

With Simon Green is Stuart Harris of Queensberry Real Estate who'll be overseeing the redevelopment. How's the building going to physically change?

"We're going to allow the Corn Exchange to communicate with city on all three sides. At the moment there's very much a front on Exchange Square and a back at Cathedral Gardens. This doesn't make much sense. Since all are lovely facades then operators' units will be able to open out directly onto Cathedral Street and Fennel Street as well as Exchange Square. The building will be more permeable."

A clever part of Harris's plan is to create an arcade effect from Fennel Street to Exchange Square. 

"We want people to cut through the building," says Harris. "If they're using the Corn Exchange as a short cut then they might want to stop and eat and drink. So we'll be making a very clear and easy to follow route right through the centre of the building.

"This will pass an oculus, a circle cut in the ground floor that matches the dome on top of the building and offer exciting glimpes of the food in the basement. We'll be be using or emphasising original features throughout, including the mini-domes."

Harris's plan for the units is that instead of galleries on different levels, restaurants will extend vertically from ground level through the floors as discrete units. This means people will not be able to circulate round the building on the inside except at ground level. 

As for the existing operators, Green clearly wants businesses such as Tampopo, Zinc and Salvis back. The shops including Jigsaw are going, their leases being terminated. This may well be a good thing for them if they are tied into expensive contracts. What it might also mean is that CityCo, the city centre management company, has an opportunity to promote King Street as the ideal relocation area. Jigsaw for the old Monsoon site maybe?

Simon Green and Stuart Harris

Simon Green and Stuart Harris

What Tampopo, Zinc, Salvis and so on are supposed to do during the redevelopment period is still being negotiated. 

"We think they understand why it's better to close completely and refurbish rather than do it piecemeal over eighteen months. But negotiations are on-going over how we are going to acheive that transition with a number of ideas being discussed."

In all the changes being envisaged let's hope many jobs aren't lost.

And that the monstrous carbuncle with Caffe Nero in the centre of the building?

"That's going. We're committed to this building, we want it to succeed so things such as that have to go," says Green.

A bit of background

The present Corn Exchange was largely rebuilt in 1903 in a vaguely Rennaissance going on Baroque style - some older elements were completed five years earlier. It was designed by Potts Son & Pickup, with the brick parts on the north-eastern side by Ball & Elce. There are some original features in the Grade II listed building including some splendid mosaics at the entrance on Hanging Ditch/Exchange Square.

Cathedral Gardens facade after the changesCathedral Gardens facade after the changes

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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54 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

"Tampopo - they're a good measure of what we are trying to achieve"..... I am hoping they are going to aim a little higher than this! Tampopo serve up tasteless slop! They should push for a more independents and make this space really interesting. I appreciate they need some chains to help bring in the punters, but they will really be missing a trick if they fill the place with more Chiquots, TFI’s and bloody Nando’s (we all love Nando’s but as a city we are at our limit)………

7 Responses: Reply To This...
mancadamAugust 8th 2013.

tampopo as a chain are way, way above the standard of nandos and chiquitos. you should probably visit the restaurant sometime rather than just seeing the name and assuming it's another wagammas clone.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Tampopo is dreadful, I have been to the one at the Corn Exchange twice and both times found it to be SHOCKING! Both times I serviced massively over cooked vegetables, dry chicken and tastless generic sauces. So thnaks fot the advice, but I have already ttied it,

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Tampopo is dreadful, I have been to the one at the Corn Exchange twice and both times found it to be SHOCKING! Both times I serviced massively over cooked vegetables, dry chicken and tasteless generic sauces. So thanks for the advice, but I have already tied it…

mancadamAugust 8th 2013.

of course you have anon.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Why on earth would I comment on something if i had never tried it? If you like it, then best of look to you..

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

may I ask what have you been ordeirng anon? have you ever used the sauces available on the table? they are pretty much all the asian cupboard essentials you need to make your dish delicious, maybe you should get creative. I'm from asia and have sampled authentic dishes from vietnam, thailand, malaysia etc, I wouldn't say tampopo is 100% there as they need to cater to the mass majority. However, if you use the sauce provided properly (and ask for extra spices if you like- I always ask for loads more chopped up fresh chilli and lime wedges), you won't be complaining.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

The sauces on the table should complement, they shouldn't be used to actually give some flavor to very bland dishes. The “chef” should send out food how he/she intends It to taste, not rely on the customer to finishing the seasoning etc. My major gripe was the dry chicken and the oily , sloppy noodles. My whole point was that I hope they up there game with interesting venues, instead of how you put it “Catering for the mass”…..

Charlie ButterworthAugust 8th 2013.

Tampopo is really good. Zinc and Salvis the article says are the type of businesses The Corn Exchange is looking for, not the Arndale Food Hall.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Thanks for reminding me about this place. I haven't visited it since "back in the day" when, as a teenager, I'd jump on the bus to Manchester and spend the afternoon browsing through the variety of charming little shops and leaving with a headache because of the joss stick fumes! It had soul back then, but now... and as for the future plans to turn it into a 'food court'... I don't think I'll ever visit again.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

It wasn't just the metal structures & sculptures, it was that "Boots like" white interior decoration that just gave a sterile feel to the whole place.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Welcome to the biggest Nandos in the UK!!!

RevaulxAugust 8th 2013.

This could be brilliant, but I hope it doesn't end up like Leeds' Corn Exchange which is now in a very sorry state having gone down a similar route.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

They need independents in here, not big names you could get in any town or city...you can wander over the road to Printworks to get tasteless food from a chain if that's what you want. They should look to attract independents who have the knowledge and care about the quality of the product they're selling and not just knocking out quick service food with maximum margin to them.

CitizenandrewAugust 8th 2013.

Sounds like a good idea and might work as long as they heed the lessons from Spinningfields. When it opened with a row of chain restaurants it was a sterile and desolate area of town. It took some innovative independent bars and restaurants to open to make it work.

Jeremy shared this on Facebook on August 8th 2013.
AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Simon and Stuart should take a trip to Madrid's food market for some good ideas. Lots of small independents where you can wander round and get food and drink from whichever stall catches your eye. Throw in some top notch delis for good measure. Something like this would attract real foodies and make it a destination. Lets not make it like the food court at the Trafford Centre, which is what the marketing currently sounds like!

LukewarmdogAugust 8th 2013.

The last thing that would generate footfall from me would be a string of non-competitive chains. 1 Italian, check, 1 Spanish, check, someone get an Indian chain signed up pronto.. Bah no thanks. My vote is more independents, would love to some of the great popups have a rotation here at the very least.

Richard HJAugust 8th 2013.

The basement of Selfridges hand this kind of food hub thing going on when it first opened. That closed down. Possibly a lesson there. My suggestion would be to reinstate it as the North West's premier space for arcane and black magic literature, Nazi memorabilia, video nasties (only on VHS) and cheap bongos. Finally, put a 70ft high gold statue of alchemist John Dee in the middle so that we can have concerts around it at the next Manchester International Festival. I have a day job you know. This consultancy work is just a sideline.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Richard HJAugust 8th 2013.


AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Best idea by a mile.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

This idea gets my vote! :)

Christine LawleyAugust 8th 2013.

My thoughts exactly - I loved it the way it was ' back in the day' and central Manchester needs a quirky indoor market, especially since losing the Royal Exchange shopping labrynth that was so nice to browse through and enjoy coffee/ lunch

SteamyAugust 8th 2013.

One of the big positives of this is the opening up of the Fennel Street / Urbis side which is currently just a litter haven.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.


AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

and emo heaven

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Put it back to it's former glory of a quirky independant market.How many more restaurants and food chains do we need in Manchester ????

Sybil TanAugust 8th 2013.

How about setting one level for the pop up restaurants, cafes or bakery places since they are going to convert them all to eateries? That would encourage new establishments and help the newcomers start off.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Turn it into a Singaporean Hawker Centre... I would literally eat there most days... as long as the food was as good and cheap!

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

I'm going for: Nandos GBK Browns Byron Burger Pizza Express Dunkin' Donuts A Frozen Yoghurt cart that does pretzels In this economy they won't have the balls to fill it with anything more than a few independents.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

Not saying this to be negative but think this will die on its arse. Do they really think there's a market for 20-30 new restaurants on the *edge* of the city centre? Most of the mid-market and family chains are represented nearby (in the Printworks/Arndale/north end of Deansgate) and there are loads of independents in the NQ 5 mins away.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

I couldn't agree more. Manchester is rapidly becoming one vast food court. There is little in the city to attract visitors now. Sure there are still some shops battling on, but look at the state of King St. once "the" area to shop. AS for entertainment, there is little more than bars now. Compared with the 60's say. All the cinemas, clubs etc, seem to have vanished. I'm afraid the city is dying on it's feet and this latest adventure is little more than another nail in its coffin and an attempt to squeeze another buck out of the punter.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

Manchester as a City is constantly evolving. We move with the times, trends and tastes. We have just had the Manchester International Festival and currently half through Dig The City, couple of weeks back Courteens did open air gigs in Castlefield. The Northern Quarter caters for all different tastes, Spinningfields (not my cup of tea) but is constantly hammered, Peter St is finally starting to get back on its feet, The Great Northern has Casinos, Bowling and Cinema’s… I could go on and on…. Liverpool are still banging on about “the 60’s” and flogging Beatles memorabilia, we’ve moved on.

Richard HJAugust 12th 2013.

Oh don't be a silly billy. Liverpool is culturally thriving at the moment. Get on the train. Spend a day at Camp & Furnace. If you'd still rather sit in a half empty casino after that then good luck to you.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

Just back from Toronto where there was a branch of Loblaws at end of the street..High class food store (think Booths & Waitrose but the size of Tesco on Market Street...)...If ONLY!!! Surely there IS a market for such in the city centre these days...

TimetoshineAugust 9th 2013.

Can we get Isadoras back and start calling it Hanging Ditch again?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Richard HJAugust 12th 2013.


Luis LoganAugust 9th 2013.

Having lived here for more than two years that Manchester is obsessed with big chains and concrete. Very nouveau riche. Instead of having Dig The City as a one off build a huge flower garden in the centre. Instead of another Tesco use the Corn Exchange to copy the lovely indoor markets of Madrid and Stockholm. Councillors...take off your gold chains and stop holidaying in Marbella..show some class and do something classy

1 Response: Reply To This...
Marcus EmadiAugust 9th 2013.

Here here

Luis LoganAugust 9th 2013.

I noticed the comment about Liverpool above. I'm not from the city but know it well. What is great about Liverpool is that it has a lot of soul. It's not trying to play 'catch-up'. Manchester's tried so hard to change it's a bit of a mess.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

Yes you are right, Liverpool has 37% more soul than Manchester. Ridiculous!

Marcus EmadiAugust 9th 2013.

I would like to think that independents would work in there- but without an outdoor drinking area- i do not think they would work. We are now seeing atleast 3 weeks a year when everyone wants to be outside in the beer gardens- even 3 weeks of bad trading can ruin 2 months worth of good trade. To be a strong independent in the city, you need a good mix of food, drink & outdoor area & sadly i dont think the corn exchange could offer this.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

I loved the pre-bomb exchange. I went into the new one for a look around and have never been back. A food hall version doesn't tempt me either.

Luis LoganAugust 9th 2013.

It is true about Manchester not having an identity or hiding it (talking about it's rich music scene) at the moment. The likes of Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow seem have developed their own personalities. Manchester started trying to keep up with London - instead of supporting independent businesses in the centre they became obsessed with Prets, Costas, try-hard bars, characterless glass towers. Pop into Liverpool and Newcastle and I don't have to go to a 'Northern Quarter' to find a more homely establishment.

JoanAugust 9th 2013.

If you really think "there is little in the city to attract visitors now" have a look at this US-based blog. It goes some way to explaining why the city's visitor nbers are so huge: www.starkinsider.com/…/move-over-men-manchester-is-also-delightful-for-girlfriend-getaways.html…

AnonymousAugust 11th 2013.

Big mistake to make it into just a food hall - bring in some quirky independent market stalls as they used to have in the Royal Exchange as has already been suggested - good idea to make it open to walk through to Chapel Gardens which could be lovely if the skateboarders and litter louts were cleared out - the place needs to have atmosphere and not just become sterile like the Trafford Centre!!!

AnonymousAugust 12th 2013.

they need to be aiming for something liek Mercado San Miguel in Madrid. Full of independents and a place for a day/night out.

Jonathan MoranAugust 12th 2013.

Something needs to be done here- it's a great location and the building has much potential. However , unless the people behind it are willing to allow local independents to open there by not pricing them out it could become another haven for chains and.... ugh more living ventures....

JaysaphineAugust 12th 2013.

Local independents are needed here to make this a different and attractive place to eat, not chains or 'big names' as the article suggests. Chelsea Food Market in New York would be a good model to use and something we don't have anything like in Manchester. Let's hope Simon Green and Stuart Harris are worldly enough to look at this differently and not produce a Trafford Centre-style food hall. As has already been mentioned, the price needs to be right for independent traders. I don't understand why Salvi's has to close, it seems that it it fully accessible from the outside, it would be a real shame to lose this place.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2013.

I can only echo the comments above - you fill this place with chain restaurants and it is doomed to failure. This place needs to be a destination to get people going there, and filling it with chains is not going to get people saying "shall we go to the Corn Exchange to eat?" A proper food market with independent food outlets would be a much better option.

Poster BoyAugust 12th 2013.

You can forget about "crazy emporia/quirky independents" or a 'Spanish style'/farmer's market whilst the building is owned by a pension fund. The unpalatable truth is that Aviva have reached the end of the road and have nowhere to go. 'Speciality Shopping' was a concept of the last century, retail 'guru' John Milligan has tried and failed, and now all they are left with a failing investment, part retail, part leisure, part nothing at all. The few occupiers that appear to work are restaurants so ergo "Welcome to our bright new concept a Restaurants Centre" -except Aviva's idea of a 'food hall ' (sic) will be dreary brand names able to sign long leases and provide security of income -the raison d'etre of the pension fund. Welcome to the real world...

RollerDivaAugust 16th 2013.

I would LOVE to get involved in the re-development! Our cafe would fit in A TREAT there! We have a cafe on Smithfield Market, serving delicious meals using the freshest produce the market can provide. Our format, of a Manchester Markets affiliated Bistro, serving Manchester sourced fruit, veg, meat and fish to the wonderful people of Manchester would be a great gateway into the city centre from Victoria Station. Breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared and cooked with love for Manchester commuters, visitors, shoppers, and workers from sunrise to sunset - doesn't come more perfect than that! We heart MCR and we're up for it!! Claire xx

Dom77August 26th 2013.

I hate to be a cynic but really? I love the idea of a 'foody' destination, maybe a venue for the Farmers markets? Whilst department store food halls have had their day I think Manchester's missing a real decent food market - the Arndale market is great but a shadow of what it could have been. I'm all for putting a bit of character back in the building - the less glass, metal and concrete the better. If Aviva can't do justice to this great building and make it work for them and the general public then maybe they should cut their losses and sell it to someone who could.

AnonymousJune 20th 2014.

The exterior to this building looks monolithic. I am not sure if anything could remake it. Nice food in Singapore www.blvd.sg/our-cuisine…

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