What to do with a redundant hospital building in the heart of the city? Rather than sell it to the highest bidder for inevitable residential or hotel development, Manchester has achieved a much more imaginative solution – Citylabs, a joint initiative between development company Bruntwood and Manchester Science Parks, providing around 10,000 sq m of high-specification flexible office, laboratory and support space in the heart of Corridor Manchester, the city’s Knowledge Quarter.
The existing red brick Royal Eye Hospital on Oxford Road in Manchester was opened in 1886 and replaced a previous hospital founded in 1814. In August 2009 the existing services moved to a new building and the old hospital building became redundant. It has now been redeveloped and extended as Citylabs. Opened in September 2014, with anchor tenant ICON Development Solutions who provide development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, Citylabs is located on Corridor Manchester within Europe’s largest clinical and academic campus, made up of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Designed by architects Sheppard Robson, the project retains the old historic building and adds a new modern extension block, the two joined by an atrium with shared areas at the heart of the development. The new extension has been well-designed to be contemporary and commercially viable, while respecting the scale and character of the existing late 19th century building and also achieved BREEAM Excellent for sustainability.
This is the first Citylabs development in Manchester and, if successful, more may follow. Well done to all the partners in this initiative; it is an exemplar of how to use redundant public buildings to create employment and enterprise.