Manchester Airport City plan reinvented as £ 1 billion science and tech hub

In a significant development, the ambitious £1 billion plan to transform a 60-acre site adjacent to Manchester Airport is being rebooted. The project, now known as MIX Manchester, aims to create one of the largest science and innovation campuses in the UK, spanning an impressive 2 million square feet of advanced manufacturing and science space. Notably, it will be the only campus of its kind situated next to an international airport, promising exciting opportunities for growth and collaboration.

The former Airport City Manchester scheme is undergoing a strategic shift. Instead of focusing on out-of-town offices, the rebranded MIX Manchester will specialise in science, innovation, and manufacturing. The masterplan, crafted by Sheppard Robson over a two-year period, is set to redefine the area’s commercial landscape.

Mix Manchester is intended to further boost the city’s life sciences and tech sectors, which are set to include Bruntwood SciTech and the University of Manchester’s £1.7bn ID Manchester and the £450m Upper Brook Street masterplan Property Alliance Group, Moda, McLaren Property Group, and Kadans.

Willmott Dixon also announced recently that it has won the job to build the £60m Greenheys development at Manchester Science Park for Bruntwood SciTech, a joint venture between Bruntwood, Legal & General and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. Construction has already started on the scheme, which is scheduled for completion in 2026 and will contain 131,000 sq ft of laboratory and office space across six floors. Occupiers will include health data and research firm UK Biobank, which will take three floors of the building for its new headquarters.

The area of MIX Manchester was previously envisioned as “Airport City” with a masterplan created in 2012. The southern portion of the site became a logistics estate named Global Logistics and was acquired by Icon Industrial in 2017.

However, the northern section, encompassing MIX Manchester, encountered difficulties. The original £1 billion project aimed to deliver a massive 5 million square feet of office space. This included a large campus for THG, a troubled retail and branding company, that ultimately never materialised.

Key players in the new venture include Columbia Threadneedle Real Estate, Manchester Airports Group, Beijing Construction Engineering Group International, and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. With a joint venture capital infusion of £30 million already invested in highways and utilities infrastructure, MIX Manchester is poised to hit the ground running as a “shovel-ready” site.

Infrastructure enhancements are well underway. A new pedestrian bridge now links the campus to the main airport site, while the Enterprise Way link road facilitates seamless access. Additionally, high voltage electricity and utilities connections have been installed, complemented by three brand-new hotels.

Gareth Jackson, group property director for Manchester Airports Group, emphasised the changing landscape of office demand. As occupiers increasingly seek sustainable work environments, MIX Manchester’s strategic adaptation aligns with rapid growth in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, digital, and technology sectors. The masterplan will undergo public consultation this summer before proceeding to the planning stage, marking a pivotal moment in Manchester’s evolution as a sci-tech hub

Image: Sheppard Robson