A multi-million pound office block will rise from a car park to kick-start Preston’s office quarter.
The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has confirmed it has signed a deal to build the £5m block on the Hill Street car park in the city centre, bringing hundreds of new jobs.
It has appointed an architect which is drawing up plans with a view to starting building next year.
Damian Masters, of the £3bn fund made up of savings from councils across Greater Manchester, said the block overlooking the Ringway would be a “landmark” building for the city.
He said he hoped the scheme act as a catalyst for other offices developments on the corridor between the University of Central Lancashire campus and the city’s train station to create a Central Business District (CBD).
He said: “We are very conscious the building will be at the heart of the CBD, so we want something which is going to be a statement of intent.
“The ambition is that this will act as a catalyst for further development in the area.
“The city council has made its commitment to regenerating the area by providing the site on Hill Street and now it is up to us to deliver.”
The said the building would be “between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet” and the pension fund is already targeting potential tenants to occupy the building.
Mr Masters said he expected there to be multiple occupants on the site with legal firms, accountants and other professional services being provided.
He said: “We know there is a demand for high-quality city centre office accommodation from firms already in Preston.
“At the moment the market is converted properties or rather tired-looking buildings from the 1960s and 70s, so this will bring something to Preston it has not had for more than 30 years.
“There is interest from companies already within Preston, although it would be great to be able to attract inward investment and new jobs into Preston.”
Mick Lovatt, environment director at Preston Council, said the council’s decision to hand over the Hill Street site to the developer showed its desire to create the office quarter.
He said: “This is a car park which makes the council money, but the cabinet has looked beyond this and is looking to the future of this area.
“It wants to use its assets in this area as a catalyst for further development.
“We want people who maybe looking at this area and wondering if it is worth their attention to see that the council is willing to put its money where its mouth is.”
The fund held a design competition for the building and chose Manchester-based Fuse Studios as its architect for the project.
Director Simon Clarke said it was now working up its concepts for the building which it expected to unveil in the coming months.
He said: “We are absolutely thrilled by this very significant appointment for the practice and hope that our equal balance of architecture and interior design skills, coupled with a passion for stunning office design will help deliver an inspirational new site for Preston.”
The fund has retained property group, GVA Grimley, as the manager of the development and national engineering firm GTMS as its project manager.
A planning application is expected by the start of next year at the latest with a view to work starting on site during 2013.
Last year, the council re-wrote the planning guidelines for the area around the Ringway to make it easier for developers to get moving.
It earmarked a number of potential development sites in a new planning document published last week, which includes nearly two acres of land owned by the county council on Mount Pleasant, the Network Rail-owned goods yard off Corporation Street and land around Hope Street and Edward Street in the city council’s ownership.