Two years ago, Manchester's Wilburn Street Basin was a neglected patch of wasteland. The three acre site had been forgotten for decades, despite its close proximity to Manchester city centre. It seemed a sad end after its frequent use back when it was built in 1864, as a mooring site on the River Irwell.
But all was not lost. Thanks to the farsightedness of a group of developers, Wilburn Street Basin is now well on the way to once more becoming an attractive and thriving area of Manchester. In just two short years, residential accommodation has begun to spring up on the site, with plans also including a range of offices, shops and smart eateries.
In summer 2014, the run-down land appeared unkempt and unloved. Now, construction crews are turning ambitious plans into reality for a range of luxurious new waterside homes and associated facilities.
The new homes back onto a large shopping complex with homewares and fashion stores on one side, with the Wilburn Street Basin providing serene river views on the other side. The pretty setting, and its location just a stone's throw from Manchester city centre, position the site well for a return to the popularity it experienced during Victorian times.
Jonathan Stephens, managing director of property consultancy Surrenden Invest, the company behind Wilburn Wharf’s Rivergate House development, said: "The Wilburn Street Basin area has so much going for it. It's astonishing to think that it sat empty for so long when space is at such a premium so close to the centre of Manchester.
"The new buildings going up on the site are breathing life into the area once again - this historic part of Manchester is about to start a new phase of its history, going from neglected wasteland to highly desirable waterside living."
City centre living of this nature is becoming increasingly popular. According to Centre for Cities, the number of city centre dwellers across the UK rose by 37% from 2001 to 2011, following decades of decline as people opted for a life in the suburbs. Large cities are leading the trend, with resident numbers in their centres increasing significantly over the decade.
And Manchester is leading the rest of the UK in respect of this growth. City centre residents there increased by 20,000 (83%) in the 10 years to 2011. Yet only 7,000 new homes were sold in the city centre during the same period. With an average of 2.3 people per UK household, based on data from the Office for National Statistics, that meant a shortfall of homes for nearly 4,000 individuals.
The increase in demand was felt across the city centre housing market. In the last five years, according to Zoopla, house prices there have risen by 15.83% and the current asking rent has reached £1,069 pcm.
With so much pressure on Manchester's central accommodation, it seems that Wilburn Street Basin's re-emergence as Wilburn Wharf couldn't have come at a better time, presenting an increasingly rare opportunity for luxurious, waterside living in the centre of Manchester.
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