The first of its kind, this immersive “big brand” attraction is set to change the dynamics of the centre. Chapman Taylor Associate Director Paul Graham, from our Manchester studio, summarises how this leisure attraction came about and explains how Chapman Taylor worked closely with specialist creative design agency Scruffy Dog Ltd to deliver this eagerly anticipated leisure concept, helping to consolidate Quayside MediaCityUK’s position as the social heart of MediaCityUK.
The challenge to physical retail
Retail developments across the country are having to adapt to a sector now dominated by internet shopping. The pandemic has accelerated structural changes to the retail sector, in particular the demand for an “ experiential high street presence”, the nature of lease agreements and the reduced amount of floorspace tenants require.
The past few years have seen unprecedented numbers of established retailers fall away from the high street, leaving behind vast amounts of unoccupied commercial space. Landlords have had to respond to this rapid change and look for new ways to retain footfall and reenergise their assets.
The Lifestyle Outlets response
Chapman Taylor has been working with Lifestyle Outlets, part of Peel Land & Property, at Quayside MediaCityUK (formerly The Lowry Outlet) since it purchased the development from Emerson Group in 2012. Originally built as an outlet mall, retail units are configured on two principal levels, with an undercroft car park and adjoining multi-storey car park. The centre was anchored by a 4,645m² Vue multiplex cinema, a Virgin Active health club, a large food court and 60 retail units of varying sizes.
Quayside is well located adjacent to the Lowry theatre at the heart of MediaCityUK, with all its associated cultural and tourist destinations, historic waterfront setting, rapidly growing residential population and curated events programme throughout the year, helping to retain customer footfall.
To stay ahead of the challenges faced by physical retail and to respond to the growing need for customer experience and changes in space requirements, Lifestyle Outlets asked Chapman Taylor to help them identify new opportunities to evolve the 1990s outlet centre, repurposing unused space with exciting new leisure and entertainment offers to ensure that Quayside MediaCityUK retains its place as the social heart of the MediaCityUK estate for many years to come.
Repurposing unused space
In 2018, Vue were planning to refurbish their existing multiplex and were in discussion with Lifestyle Outlets about reducing their demise. At the time, Vue were starting to roll out their new brand identity and upgrade their existing developments with the latest 4D technology. The original cinema had a seating capacity of 1,780 (one of the largest in the UK) and accommodated nine auditoriums, configured along the southern edge of the building at first floor level. Working with Lifestyle Outlets and Vue, Chapman Taylor looked at options to compress the cinema footprint and repurpose the surrendered space for alternative leisure uses.
At the same time, we also created options to repurpose the vacant retail units below the cinema at ground floor l to open up and reenergise the southern edge of the building, which occupies the best waterfront in Manchester. A range of flexible food and beverage offers will be introduced along the southern waterfront, with views across the widest section of the Manchester Ship Canal. A new, double-height entrance and a proposed connection to the Millennium Bridge will help reactivate the previously neglected southern waterside of the building.
The space surrendered by Vue, has been reconfigured to create a new link to the waterfront, as well as to the cinema and the new, 12m-high “leisure box” at first floor level.
Collaborating with ITV on an exciting new leisure destination
Lifestyle Outlets engaged in early discussions with ITV regarding potential new leisure opportunities for the space. Already based in MediaCityUK, ITV was keen to add to its existing portfolio of live events, building on the success of “Coronation Street: The Tour” and “The Emmerdale Village Tour”.
Chapman Taylor worked closely with ITV and its leisure specialist creative designers, Scruffy Dog Creative Group, to explore potential uses for the new leisure space and to explore the technical constraints and opportunities presented by the shell unit. Scruffy Dog offers a turn-key service for projects such as this, delivering the theming, props and tailored elements for clients worldwide.
A bespoke space has been created, tailored to suit ITV’s requirements for their first “I’m a Celebrity …. Jungle Challenge” leisure attraction, which includes large installations (such as helicopters!).
Demolition works to repurpose the former cinema space, including the removal of the cinema auditoriums and stadia seating, were completed in December 2019. The associated works to form the new Watergardens link mall were completed during the first COVID-19 lockdown, in April 2020.
New attractions for a new generation of outlet centre
The I’m a Celebrity space is billed as the ultimate jungle encounter, featuring Main Camp, the Throne and Winners Bridge. Campmates will be challenged to face their fears and collect stars to be crowned king or queen of the jungle. The space is configured into three zones: a gift shop/retail space fronting the mall, an attraction space filled with a series of physical challenges and an amenity space including guest party rooms. The existing mezzanine floor has been retained and is used as a launch zone for the indoor Skyrider attraction, as well as for a leap of faith and climbing walls. The attractions are designed to appeal to a range of age groups, including families with older children (minimum age 8), groups of friends, school groups and corporate event organisers.
The partnership of Lifestyle Outlets with ITV is an exciting development in their goal to create a new generation of outlet centres by delivering innovative and unique leisure and shopping destinations with entertainment at their heart.
Chapman Taylor is designing the transformation of Quayside MediaCityUK for Lifestyle Outlets to help consolidate the centre’s social and economic success. We are delighted to see the “I’m a Celebrity… Jungle Challenge” take its place alongside the rest of the diverse range of leisure and entertainment offers at MediaCityUK, which will help to evolve its vibrancy and relevance as a social hub for decades to come.