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The Grouch – 25/11/10

Peel hits the sales, First Street or Worst Street; and a load of balls

Published on November 25th 2010.

The Grouch – 25/11/10

Whittaker cashes in
What a week.

A sale at the Trafford Centre isn’t out of the ordinary, but it’s not often the place itself is the item up for grabs.

Peel has explored the idea of selling off chunks of the TC before of course – it had ‘exploratory talks’ with Liberty last April, but issued a firm ‘hands off’ shortly after.

So why the u-turn? Well, the lending landscape has changed, and thanks to the coalition, development grants look set to all but disappear. So Peel’s strong asset base becomes less relevant if it can’t be leveraged to bring in debt funding from banks or wave in front of RDAs.

The solution – get some money in quick. Cash is king, so Peel appears to have taken the view that it’s better off retaining smaller stakes in its projects for the long term while hiving off the rest to bring in cash for the immediate future.

But the real genius is the fact that Peel will get almost 20 per cent of the company that owns some of the top performing shopping centres in the UK. It also gets £800m trimmed off its debt pile.

Will they take the same approach with MediaCity then? It’s an ideal candidate to be hawked around the investment market – a strong covenant on a long lease (courtesy of the BBC) is a good starting point, and plenty of growth potential.

Peel is tight lipped on that, but the Trafford Centre deal is expected to be wrapped up very soon - another sharp move from arch-dealmaker John Whittaker, who will now have a nice pile of cash to spend on Wirral Waters, among other things.

He might even be able to afford to buy himself something nice in the January sales.

Seconds out over First Street
The other big news of the week was the decision to move the Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre to First Street.

Already there are murmurings that First Street got the nod due to the council’s £3m investment in the Ask Developments site – a move that irked some other private sector developers when it happened last year.

Some felt the site had already been given plenty of help when the council took 140,000 sq ft of temporary office space, reneging on an earlier deal with Spinningfields.

Whether that’s the case or not, the investment leaves the council open to whisperings suggesting that some developers get a bit more assistance from the local authority than others.

All developers are equal, but are some more equal than others?

Could other sites have been better suited to the new building that will house the pair? How about West’s Origin site at the end of Canal Street, which looks decidedly shaky? Or the former Odeon at the bottom of Oxford Street, which has been slowly rotting for the last few years?

The city council will argue the toss, but the site may prove to be too disconnected to the city centre ‘proper’. As an office location? Fine. Destination for a night out at the flicks? I’m not so sure. It will all depend on getting some good leisure operators on board, but is Manchester just going to end up as a series of mini-Spinningfields/ Piccadilly Place clones, with the Northern Quarter tagged on at one end?

Airport wars in cyberspace
Bloggers, eh? ‘Oh, I’ve got a laptop and a pair of hands, I think I’ll be a writer.’ Pfft.

Finnair and Manchester Airport came a bit of a cropper when one of four bloggers employed by the airline to fly around the world likened the airport to Paris Hilton.Christina Lund Sorensen claimed that ‘like the blonde jetsetter, the airport has got it all, but for others it can be difficult to spot the qualities. First of all it is in Manchester, who’s travelling there? And second of all, it’s in Manchester.’

Erm, well you are, clearly; and the likeness to Ms Hilton makes no actual sense. But anyhow, another of the bloggers – nicknamed the ‘Quality Hunters’ – was more impressed.Wolfgang Warner told The Grouch that he was ‘pleasantly surprised’ by Manchester. “Everything looks clean, well working and well maintained in the city centre. I was amazed by the number of restaurants and pubs. The airport is extremely nice. The facilities are first rate and the Escape lounge was the best I had been during my two months of travel for Finnair.”

He picked up on an issue that has been highlighted on Confidential a few times before however.

“What the city lacks are real attractions which are known to the world and can be promoted especially to tourists,” he said.

“I always look at Geneva - they do not have a lot either, but created some with little money involved, like the water fountain in Lake Geneva which is known around the world - but at the end is just water blown up in the air.” Has he not seen the dolphin fountain in the Trafford Centre? It’s a cultural highlight.

My massive minty balls
The Grouch got his balls out in the office this week. Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, obviously. They do toffees as well, which Gordo snatched before anyone else got a chance, but the Wigan-based manufacturer is also big Down Under, just as the Ashes begins.

It’s tripled orders in Australia, thanks to a partnership with Victoria-based distributor Raw Materials.

So our Aussie cousins (or ‘convicts’ as Gordo helpfully calls them) can now get Uncle Joe’s Pear Drops and Strawberry Bon Bons . And they say the pommies don’t give them anything.


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

RicNovember 25th 2010.

please don't displace the cultural heart of manchester to coporate land

AnonymousNovember 25th 2010.

The cornerhouse off in some obscure corner like First Street? Moronic.

TickleNovember 26th 2010.

Part of Odeon's arrangements of the old Peter Street cinema closing down and relocating to the Printworks was that the building could not be re-opened as a cinema. Wankers.

M30November 26th 2010.

The problem with cinemas is that they don't tend to lend themselves well to conversions. The cinema on Chester Road in Stretford has been derelict for years, and to have a building like the Odeon lying derelict in Manchester is a disgrace.

ASK for helpNovember 28th 2010.

Another nice public sector backed win for Ask. (First street council letting, First street council investment, GM Police HQ, St Petersfield Ashton, Townside Bury...)

Dragging the cornerhouse and library theatre away from the centre is a mistake. The cornerhouse will leave a big hole in that area. And I cant see that building being used for anything productive in the future.

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