Manchester's city council approves Factory arts venue project
Plans for a £110 million arts venue in Manchester - set to make the city cultural capital of the UK "if not the world" - have been approved by the city council.
The Government pledged £78 million in last year's autumn statement towards The Factory project - located at the former Granada Studios site - as part of its Northern Powerhouse initiative.
A meeting of the council's executive this morning welcomed recommendations regarding the venue which is scheduled to open in July 2019.
Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "This is very exciting indeed."
And councillor Rosa Battle, executive member for culture and leisure, said The Factory could make Manchester cultural capital of the UK "if not the world".
The venue is set to be able to transform from a seated theatre space to a standing environment suitable for a wide range of art forms.
Research has shown that there is a need for such a venue, which will serve a catchment area of 9.7m people within a 90-minute drive time, the council said.
It is hoped the economic benefits of The Factory will not be limited to increased visitor numbers.
The council said Manchester's creative economy is also increasingly important and a new, large scale arts centre is seen as the next critical piece of infrastructure to support the area's "creative eco-system".
It is anticipated that will act as a catalyst, encouraging other creative industries and specialist suppliers to cluster around it, establishing Manchester as the country's most important arts and cultural employment centre outside London.
It is calculated that within a decade it will help create, directly or indirectly, the equivalent of almost 2,500 jobs and add £138 million a year to the economy, the council said.
The Factory will be located at the heart of a new creative village, St John's, in the former Granada Studios site in Manchester city centre.
This new neighbourhood - which a report says will "create vibrancy similar to Covent Garden in London" - will cover six hectares and also involve residential and office development with 15,000 sq m of creative performance space, 13,000 sq m of retail and hotel accommodation, 60,000 sq m of office space and 3,000 homes.
It will also feature public open space, including a new riverside park.
The cost for the full construction and fit out will be £110m.
The Government pledged £78m in last year's autumn statement towards The Factory project, and some £3.5m of this is being released in 2015-16 so the procurement of design services can begin.
The council will develop the rest of the funding package, which will include third party support, as part of the detailed business case.
Last week, Sir Richard said: "The significance of The Factory cannot be overstated. It will be internationally significant, the cultural anchor for the next phase of economic and cultural regeneration in Manchester, Greater Manchester and beyond.
"It will help power Manchester and the wider region towards becoming a genuine cultural and economic counterbalance to London."
Ms Battle added: "Culture has been a key ingredient in making Manchester the most visited city in England outside London. The tourist economy is estimated by experts to be worth a staggering £3.4bn a year to Manchester, a figure which is growing fast, and culture is a huge part of that.
"There's a real buzz around the city's creative scene."
She added: "The Factory will be an amazing class ultra-flexible space to compare with the best in the globe - attracting the best artists from around the world and audiences from all over the country and beyond as well as supporting home-grown talent.
"It will be unique, wholly different to the range of current arts venues within Manchester and the wider region, commissioning works in partnership with leading national and international organisations - not competing with existing venues.
"Research has established that there is not just space for it but a glorious opportunity - it's the next piece in the jigsaw which will help Manchester become the country's most important arts and cultural employment centre outside London."