Jonathan Schofield takes a wry look at some stories in the property world

An opinionated monthly look at some of the stories that caught our eye in the property world including goings-on in Salford, Manchester and Trafford.

The Busy Glory Days Of Rail A Little North Of Victoria Station
Bring the rail headquarters back home Image: Confidentials

And the winner is... Salford pushes for Great British Railways HQ

Nobody will bemoan the end of Network Rail but whether Great British Railways (GBR) will be any better we'll have to wait and see. GBR is the state-owned body that will oversee rail transport in the country from 2023 aside from Transport for London (as always) and light rail and trams (including Metrolink). 

There's a battle of the cities taking place at present about where the headquarters of GBR should be located. Salford's in the chase with 100 Embankment, a building they own (main picture). Historically this makes sense as 100 Embankment sits on the platform level of the old Exchange Station smack in the city centre a few hundred metres from Manchester Cathedral. The pair of office blocks here, despite stern good looks and a fabulous location, have been difficult to let. Swinton insurance have a significant presence in 101 Embankment but that doesn't amount to half that building. 

Salford says, "The jobs, work opportunities and investment from GBR’s new HQ could be critical in helping us address the key disparities that we have in Salford. It would be the perfect example of the levelling up that this government is aiming to deliver.”

The shortlist for the headquarters will be announced in May 2022 and then a public vote will open with the winner expected to be announced later this summer. More information on the bid can be found at

GBR's arrival is potentially an incredible boost for the town or city that wins so why is there a reality TV style process involved with this? That's, let's think of a word, ah yes, pathetic. Popularism gone mad. Maybe we should do the same with elective surgery. People on the waiting list can make a case and the public can vote on who should go under the knife first. Surely such an important decision as the headquarters of British rail in future years should be made by people with knowledge, let's call them "experts" rather than on a public vote? 

Property Old Trafford Revamp
Old Trafford needs improvement on and off the pitch Image: Confidentials

Manchester United to upgrade the spectator experience

The old lady is definitely mixing up her fashions. She's wearing clothes from the sixties, the nineties and the noughties. Yet she's still the second largest in the country after that young upstart Wembley Stadium. Old Trafford football stadium, 112 years old, 74,000 plus capacity, is to get a new set of togs. Or will the new look be nothing more than cosmetic? We'll have to wait and see.

Either way shy sounding stadium consultant company, Legends International, has teamed up with the club and architectural practice Populous to spruce up the stadium. This is timely and will happily (hopefully) coincide with the improvements on the pitch under new manager Erik ten Hag. 

Both Legends and Populous have experience in the field. The latter has been involved in the design of the Co-op Live Arena, presently under construction next to the Etihad, as well as Tottenham Hotspur's acclaimed new home. Legends have been associated with Manchester City and other clubs. The idea at Old Trafford is to "significantly enhance the spectator experience". 

That's as it should be. United might not appreciate it but City have been way ahead in tying the club to the city and its fans in recent years. It's going to be interesting to see how the new masterplan will address this and other pressing issues at Manchester United. 

Property Old Trafford Rebuild
Old Trafford cricket stadium is on target for a refurbishment ready in time for the 2023 Ashes Image: Confidentials

The other Old Trafford stadium capacity boost aiming for the Ashes

Meanwhile down the way from the football the refurbishment of part of Old Trafford cricket ground is proceeding at pace. The Lancashire County Cricket Club project includes plans for a new 1,025-seater stand, a heritage centre and shop facing directly onto Brian Statham Way. This will take the capacity of the stadium to 26,700, which will make it the largest cricket stadium in the UK aside from Lords in London with its 30,000 capacity. The architects are BDP who also redesigned the main pavilion and The Point convention and event centre a decade ago. Together the ten year refurb will cost £60m. There will also be a significant expansion of the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, with a new extension inside the existing stadium footprint. All the work is set to be completed in time for the Ashes in 2023.


Roundup   Chotto Matte
Chotto Matte, all shiny and sexy, when it arrives Image: Developer

Glitz and swagger on high with Chotto Matte

London, Toronto, Miami, Manchester - in 2024. In an interview with Confidential years ago Gary Neville stated his belief that Manchester should play at the top table of cities in terms of luxury amenity and accommodation as well as with sport and science. In the £200m St Michael's development there's a belief that the arrival of Chotto Matte will show that he's living up to that commitment. The international jet-setter of a venue will underline the glitz and swagger of the development to would-be investors, residents and tenants. It's another rooftop restaurant, soon we'll have enough of these to connect them all by zip-wire so we don't have to ever touch terra firma on a night out. 

Chotto Matte provides Japanese-Peruvian crossover food. It's Manchester site will be a long cricket six away from the Peter Street Kitchen at the Edwardian Hotel which provides Japanese-Mexican food. Perhaps we can call this area the Japanese/Latino fusion quarter. By the way Chotto Matte in Japanese means "wait a moment". Well, we'll have to wait a couple of years at least. Chotto Matte is also an anagram of "et hot tomcat". Menu suggestion maybe? 

Property And Warehouse Project Move 2
The Warehouse Project is setting up office in Timber Wharf Image: Urban Splash

Warehouse Project and Parklife splash-out

The Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival have a new headquarters at Urban Splash's Timber Wharf, Castlefield-cum-Hulme. The ubiquitous Sacha Lord, Andy Burnham's Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Advisor, who dreamt up both entertainment initiatives is adding to existing offices at neighbouring Burton Place. Lord said: “The hospitality sector’s been on one hell of a journey in recent years, and I’ve made it my mission to give businesses a voice, ensuring that as and when we could get back to some form of normality, we would be able to do so. To support this, we are growing our team and moving into another Urban Splash building adjacent to our current base. I find we have a lot of synergy with Urban Splash and we are businesses with many shared values." As Urban Splash reminds, they have a long history of welcoming musicians and performers into its buildings with Simply Red, 808 State, Cream and Manchester Jazz Festival among those who’ve operated from the company’s workspaces into its North West properties. 

Property Ugliest Building In Manchester 3
Travelodge on Bury New Road, jail the architect Image: Confidentials
Property Ugliest Building In Manchester 1
For £76 you can buy a twelve hour stretch in a cell Image: Confidentials
Property Ugliest Building In Manchester 2
From every angle it's a total shocker Image: Confidentials

Travelodge, Bury New Road, the ugliest Manchester building: what's yours?

Every time I pass it, I think, "That's it. The ugliest building in Manchester constructed in the last ten years." The Travelodge on Bury New Road, a skip and a jump from the AO Arena, is utterly vile, stained render, a blocky corrugated iron appearance and a cell-like aspect that wonderfully echoes the barred windows of nearby HMP Manchester, aka Strangeways Prison. There is not a single redeeming feature, and it doesn't matter that there were lots of pre-existing ugly trading sheds around here, planning permission should have been aspirational, should have had an eye on the future. 

I've had look but I can't find who the architect of this disgrace was, perhaps it was all done in-house, either way the person or board member responsible should be made to walk up and down Bury New Road, once a year, naked, hopefully on a cold day, wearing a dunce's cap with a sandwich board that reads, "Sorry, I will try harder next time." 

What's your ugliest Manchester building of the last ten years? 

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @jonathschofield

Read next: Top things to do in and around Manchester: May 2022

Read again: Skateboarders in public squares: nuisance or harmless fun?

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