Exclusive: Brand new view of the £70m Altair scheme that will transform Altrincham

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Exclusive to Altrincham Today, here’s a new glimpse of the £70m Altair scheme that is set to transform a large part of Altrincham town centre.

So far, only an artists’ impression has been available – but these computer generated images clearly show how the main boulevard at the heart of the scheme will likely look, by day and night.

And the developer behind the scheme insists it will be the “missing piece of the jigsaw” for the town – and that everything is in place to complete the development by 2017.

Nick Payne, managing director of Nikal Developments, said his company was hoping to begin the first phase of the project in early 2015.

And speaking exclusively to Altrincham Today, he has also given more details about the scheme, why it’s right for Altrincham – and answered criticism about its suitability for the town.

Nick Payne, MD of Nikal
Nick Payne, MD of Nikal

He said: “Altair is the missing piece of the jigsaw for Altrincham. In the early days there were concerns that it would split the town and emphasise activity on one side of the railway track, with Tesco and the leisure centre.

“It’s not about that, it’s about providing a balance and towns and cities work very well when you have an old and a new. Manchester’s a great example, there’s loads of ‘new’ – the Arndale, Spinningfields – but does that detract from the old? No, the old thrives.”

Nikal was given the go-ahead for the scheme way back in 2008 but after a number of revisions to the plans, outline planning permission was finally granted by Trafford Council last September.

The 4.5 acre site will now include a new spa-type leisure centre, around 15 leisure outlets including restaurants, coffee shops and bars, a convenience store, offices, 150 apartments and townhouses and a new car park.

It will also provide a gateway to the new £19m interchange, which is due to be completed later this year.

And Payne believes Altair will be the key to maximising “secondary spend” for the town, attracting those who either usually opt for the Trafford Centre or Manchester or have nowhere to go while in Altrincham.

“The whole principle behind Altair was to improve dwell time in Altrincham,” he said. “How do we bring people back into the heart of Altrincham and make them stay? That was the driving force behind it.

“We’ve done our research and we looked at the lack of amenities that would make people want to stay here a little bit longer.

[alpine-phototile-for-pinterest src=”board” uid=”AltrinchamToday” board=”altair-development” imgl=”fancybox” dlstyle=”medium” style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”680″ size=”600″ num=”3″ border=”1″ highlight=”1″ max=”100″ nocredit=”1″]

The new CGI images of the boulevard at the heart of the Altair scheme

“You’ve got four principle areas of usage – the interchange, Tesco, the leisure centre and the ice rink. Unbelievably, if you add those four together, you get over 12 million people a year. How much of that 12 million is actually going on to have a secondary spend? It’s a first spend and that’s all.

“What we’re trying to do with Altair is say, right, can we have some of that secondary spend please? If we got 10% of that 12 million and got them to spend a tenner, that’s £12m of income just off one spend.

“So it’s about dwell time and pushing that secondary spend, and in our mind that secondary spend is going to add 10s of millions of pounds to the Altrincham economy. It’s an absolute no-brainer.”

Payne described how the new scheme would look and feel for people once it was completed.

“In essence there’s a single avenue, a boulevard which is L-shaped, and what we’re doing is pulling people from Hale and the Tesco area and then they’ll walk down a lovely, beautiful piece of public realm, past a series of restaurants, bars and eateries.

“Then it will lead up into a semi-sheltered space where you can buy your train tickets and your tram tickets, and then you walk into the new bridge that links directly into the platform.”

Some people have suggested that the scheme is doomed to suffer the same fate as other parts of the town, where retail outlets and office spaces lay dormant, but Payne disagreed.

“You entice new operators and retailers to a town by providing the space that they require. Unfortunately not every retailer can fit into a property that was built as a terraced house that has been converted into shops, it doesn’t work anymore, so we’ve got to provide new space in order to attract those sort of operators that will come here, spend a million on their fit-out and attract people to stay.”

He also denied that Altair will have a negative impact on other parts of the town, citing the way that a new area like Spinningfields in Manchester sits comfortably alongside an older zone like the Northern Quarter.

“The offering at Altair will be very different,” he said. “We’re not looking to take any of the occupiers from George Street because we’re not a pure retail offering, and we’re certainly not looking to take any operators from the marketplace.

“What we are looking to do is to bring operators from Manchester or from other parts of the UK or from London, with a food, restaurant or coffee offering that will come into Altrincham and create something that’s very different.

[alpine-phototile-for-pinterest src=”board” uid=”AltrinchamToday” board=”altair-development-map” imgl=”fancybox” dlstyle=”medium” style=”bookshelf” row=”1″ size=”600″ num=”1″ border=”1″ highlight=”1″ max=”100″ nocredit=”1″]
A view of the Altair site from above

“The Northern Quarter is so successful because actually they want their customer base to have a choice, so you can come in and go to Spinningfields and have your highly polished cheeseburger, or you can go to the Northern Quarter and have your rough and ready cheeseburger, and actually people like to have that variety.

“In the evening, people might start with a cocktail in Spinningfields and then go and have a beer in the Northern Quarter or a nice meal.

“The walk between some of these places in Altrincham might take you three minutes, it’s a neighbourhood. We want people to be getting off the tram and not to be faced with a rundown Altrincham but to be saying, my God, this is incredible, look what we’ve got on offer.”

Payne also countered criticism about the aesthetics of the development, with some claiming it was out of step with the more historic feel of much of the town.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”Nick Payne, Nikal”]”We want people to be getting off the tram and not to be faced with a rundown Altrincham but to be saying, my God, this is incredible, look what we’ve got on offer”[/pullquote]

He added: “It’s not going to be high, it’s not going to be glass, it’s going to have some sympathy and homage to the buildings and style we have in Altrincham.

“But what we’re going to do is have regular shop spaces that are 3,500-4,000 sq ft and designed specifically for a restaurant, bar or coffee-type offering. At the moment you have to knock through two or three buildings to get that space.

“Operators are looking for that kind of size of space. They can provide their own internal environment but you have to provide the space as a starting point otherwise they’re just not going to come. You can’t generate enough income by squeezing into 1,500 sq ft instead of 3,500.”

As for accusations that the scheme will potentially bring in the kind of troublesome, drink-fuelled crowd that can blight the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights, he said: “The policing now is significantly better and with more people and better control you get a broader, wider audience.

“The thing that’s missing in Altrincham in my view – and what our scheme is absolutely focused on – is families. We’re not going to close the gates to Altrincham and not let people in. We’re promoting Altair to girls and boys who are 13 and 14, because they’re going to be the people who want to go to Nando’s, and who want to go and have a coffee and meet their mates.

“We’ve got to encourage families and that’s why the scheme is set out the way it is – as a boulevard. It’s an avenue of lots of nice things that people can enjoy.”

In terms of the timeline of the building work, Payne said that the first phase – involving a new entrance to the ice rink and a new bar and residential apartments overlooking it – would begin in early 2015 assuming the success of a detailed planning application, due later this year.

That would lead on to a replacement for the current leisure centre, involving a 12-month build plus fit-out, followed by work on the main boulevard. The whole project is due to take two and a half years and is intended to be ready by 2017.

From our Instagram page