An historic depot building has been reimagined as a cultural destination with a food market, bars, cultural spaces and more, including the depot itself providing a covered space for 700 visitors. In addition to restaurants, there are also free performances for all to enjoy.
Who is the developer/client of the project?
The Mayfield Partnership (a public-private partnership comprising regeneration specialist U+I, Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and LCR)
Describe the context of this project and its contribution to the urban life and user experience of the place.
Mayfield is a regeneration scheme unlike any other, providing real, positive economic, environmental and social impact to the city and people of Manchester.
The Mayfield Partnership – a public-private partnership comprising regeneration specialist U+I, Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and LCR – is transforming a huge swathe of derelict brownfield land in the city centre into a distinctive, imaginative and diverse mixed-use neighbourhood. With a £1.4bn gross development value and spanning 24 acres, it is the largest and most significant regeneration scheme in Manchester right now.
Over the next ten years, Mayfield will deliver 1,500 homes, 1.6m sqft commercial space, 300,000 sqft retail and leisure facilities and 11 acres of public realm, including a 6.5-acre park – the city’s first new public park in over 100 years.
The site has hosted various events since the Partnership took ownership in 2016, so that Mayfield becomes a place that all Mancunians can enjoy, long before the park opens and businesses and residents move in. After 30 years of dereliction, the Depot was transformed after just 16 weeks and with a £1m budget to provide a music venue for 10,000 people. When the pandemic forced its closure, the Partnership redirected its efforts, just as quickly, to open leisure destination Escape to Freight Island, providing just as much activity and value, but in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
How has this project, event or installation enlivened the place in a creative way?
Mayfield’s historic depot building, which is being retained and repurposed as part of the wider regeneration scheme, has been reimagined as a new forward-thinking cultural destination for people and city of Manchester.
Escape to Freight Island is an inspiring urban landscape rebuilt and rethought around a visionary food market, a unique selection of bars (a huge main bar, craft beer tap room, neighbourhood cocktail bar and intimate wine bar), inventive culture spaces and intimate seating.
The depot itself is now an immersive and bustling Ticket Hall, providing covered space for 700 visitors, alongside an open-air area accommodating 455 people.
A stellar line up of food and drink vendors appeals to all tastes and dietary requirements, and includes a mix of established and up-and-coming brands, from Voodoo Rays and Camden Brewery to Baratxuri and Pomona Island Brewery. Many also have roots in or are based in Manchester, ensuring ETFI supports local businesses and the city’s economy.
Kantina Weekender, a standalone event in late May (and the first to bring together the UK hospitality sector since the pandemic), will further showcase ETFI’s culinary talent while introducing some of the UK’s most prestigious cooks, cocktail makers, the world’s best brewers, and local food heroes, well as offering exclusive talks, satellite events and wine tasting.
In addition to a comprehensive restaurant-quality food and beverage offer, ETFI has an extensive cultural programme, with an impressive roster of musicians, DJs, MCs and poets performing every evening. All of these performances are free for all to enjoy.
What do you see as the greatest success of this project?
ETFI has brought life to Mayfield whilst the regeneration scheme gets underway, providing Mancunians and visitors with an exciting new cultural venue in place of the Depot.
ETFI was one of the first venues to open following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions last summer, thanks in part to its ‘safe and social’ mission. A comprehensive health and safety policy, combined with a socially-distanced design, enabled people to come together for the first time following the first national lockdown. The management then responded quickly to the various subsequent restrictions, ensuring ETFI could operate and thereby support local businesses and serve the local community.
The Mayfield Partnership was forward thinking, dedicated to supporting the hospitality sector, and in so doing, created construction jobs when many were having to find alternate incomes, and ensured there was a thriving venue for hospitality workers to return to.
Opening a hospitality venue as works start on site is also no mean feat, especially when having to manage the economic and social fallout from the pandemic. ETFI, Broadwick and The Mayfield Partnership have worked in close collaboration to ensure safe access to the site for visitors and staff, whilst not impacting on the development programme.
The quality of the F&B offer and performers is testament to ETFI’s status as a leading cultural destination in the city. Internationally-renowned musicians and Michelin-starred chefs regularly appear, which in turn attracts visitors that then support emerging businesses – creating a virtuous circle benefitting the wider local economy.
Please share any data or figures that support your entry, for example increased footfall, happiness surveys, event attendance and/or observed changes in behaviour. Did it make a positive economic, social and environmental contribution? You may also attach any news clippings, testimonials, or additional images or documents to support your entry.
Escape to Freight Island has welcomed a staggering 80,000 people over the past year – 15,000 alone in the first week after the stage three roadmap restrictions were lifted – and accommodated 50 businesses, supporting 1,200 jobs and generating significant local economic value.
From reopening on 12 April to 20 June (when both indoor and outdoor spaces will be open to all), ETFI has taken a staggering 68,000 bookings – highlighting its appeal to local people and the need of such a cultural destination in the city.
Its reopening generated significant media interest earlier this year, with coverage in national press including The Times and on Channel 4, as well as local outlets such as Taste of Manchester.
Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s Night-time Economy Adviser, said:
“Escape To Freight Island has given the people of Manchester a much-needed opportunity to socialise and celebrate after a tumultuous year. The quality of the food, drink and music on offer shows how Manchester is now a cultural hub in its own right, thanks in no small part to the incredible vision and efforts of The Mayfield Partnership and Broadwick Live to bring this previously derelict space to life in the most creative and safe way possible.”