The Great Northern Warehouse: How Trilogy is putting communities at the heart of regeneration

Written by May Molteno Director Trilogy

May Molteno, Director of Trilogy, explains why community engagement is so important at Trilogy and the methods they used to ensure the Great Northern project meets the needs of modern-day Mancunians.

At its core, good placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent better public spaces. The best public spaces are those that work for the people who live in the area and will use it most.

Trilogy, are in the midst of a project that will dramatically change Manchester’s city centre, with a vision to create a new mixed-use neighbourhood off one of Manchester’s busiest retail and leisure streets while repurposing one of the city’s most iconic heritage buildings. With an emphasis on a carefully curated mix of uses, Trilogy will create 1.5 million sq ft of office, leisure, retail and residential spaces, alongside high-quality green spaces, with better public access and connections to the wider city centre.

In giving the historic Great Northern Warehouse a new lease of life, Trilogy understands that it must create a space that works and can adapt for the growing city-centre community both now, and in the future. The space needs to respond to real issues like climate change, the cost of living crisis and other community needs.

May Molteno, Director of Trilogy, explains why community engagement is so important at Trilogy and the methods they used to ensure the Great Northern project meets the needs of modern-day Mancunians.

The Great Northern is a six-hectare leisure and retail site in the centre of Manchester. The site runs along Deansgate – beginning with a public square and Victorian warehouse off Peter Street – with a 1990s leisure complex addition towards Great Bridgewater Street. The heritage building has become an icon of the Manchester skyline, acting as a reminder of the city’s industrial past but now, Trilogy is rethinking how the site is used so that it can benefit local people for years to come.

The Great Northern has been managed by Trilogy since 2015. Over these seven years, understanding how the site is used, and what Mancunians want from it, has been a core approach and consultation with the community has taken place regularly throughout this time – with over 1000 participants in workshops, surveys or 1-1 interviews.

Throughout these sessions, the local community asked for a greener public realm, more safety, more activity, more permeability and more community focussed facilities.

At Trilogy, we believe that engagement and consultation that brings about strong social value should not just be about planning applications. In April 2022, Trilogy partnered with Forever Manchester to take an innovative approach to ongoing community engagement work: Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).

This is a body of work that focuses on identifying the positive assets in an area. Trilogy has employed an experienced ABCD Community Builder from local charity Forever Manchester to work on-site one day per week, Lisa. She bases herself in bumping grounds including a pop-up van, the Book Nook and the Square, where she can engage with people - to create an interactive ‘asset map’ of local spaces, resources and skills. She then connects people based on shared interests, encouraging them to use community facilities and businesses onsite, build new relationships and support each other to bring their ideas to life.

The feedback gathered shaped the site’s annual Place Strategy, resulting in new free-to-use facilities: a giant sandpit and playhouse; forest school-inspired play sessions; a pop-up adventure playground; growing spaces and a pilot community gardening project.

The work also created spaces for people to meet and support each other. These include a community library; more growing spaces on the Mews; an indoor play and lounge for families with young children; and a meeting room and kitchenette which in turn are supported by two part-time staff: a Play Facilitator and a Head Gardener.

The project also extends face-to-face contact with local people to active use of local forums and social media to gain further opinions. Through ABCD, new projects have flourished, and importantly have been set up and delivered by and for local people. They include a Christmas wreath making; a support group for single parents; a group for men’s mental health.

In each case, Lisa works with the organiser to connect people with similar interests together and provides up to £400 seed money for the project to get started. By working closely with the people involved, a lot of the barriers to applying for funding are removed, and the community can organise the activities that it actually wants. This activity has enabled us to test the need for facilities such as the Village Hall, which are now included as a firm element of the redevelopment plans.

While some consultation provided feedback for our redevelopment plans, it largely informed the ongoing management of the site– creating the connected community we need to help shape the future development of The Great Northern site. For Trilogy, the ABCD approach ensures there is continued dialogue and shared decision-making with local people and continues to underpin our strategy going forward.

Following the success of the first nine months, Trilogy has committed to working with Forever Manchester for another year, enabling the relationship between the Great Northern and the Manchester community to continue and instilling trust in the social value that the development brings local people.

This type of community work is typical in deprived areas, but Trilogy wanted to pioneer it in this environment knowing that city centre residents are affected by issues including hidden poverty and mental health issues. The live asset map has also created a way for Primary Care staff to engage with individuals about their needs and connect them with community groups, instead of prescribing medication.

The ABCD approach has now become core to Trilogy’s theory of change – managing assets to support the creation of stronger, more connected and engaged communities. Trilogy teams at its other UK assets have now also been trained in Community Building.

Trilogy will be attending UKREiiF as part of the Manchester @ UKREiiF partnership. To organise a meeting with them on the Manchester stand, please contact admin@trilogyproperty.com

Learn more about Triilogy’s work by visiting their website.

To plan your time at UKREiiF 2023 you can also view the full Manchester @ UKREiiF partnership and programme.