It is almost three years since Fortis Group began construction work on a major new development project to build 1,900 new homes across five sites in Salford.
The Manchester developer, backed by various private investors, is ploughing £340m into the project, which is due for completion in 2020. So with just 18 months remaining, how are the Salford plans coming on, and what are the next big opportunities that Fortis has its eye on?
By the third quarter of this year, the Fortis team will have delivered just under 500 of the planned 1,900 homes. Bridgewater Gate, a 53-unit site on Woden Street, was completed last year and is already occupied. Next up are the 220-unit Bridgewater Point, Ordsall Lane, and the 206-unit phase one of Adelphi Wharf, Adelphi Street, which are both scheduled for completion this autumn.
The largest and final of the five sites, Fortis Quay on Furness Quay, which will deliver 709 homes in four phases, is also under construction.
While Fortis is on track to complete the project on time, development manager Chris Carmichael says it has encountered a number of obstacles.
“We’ve had a few issues with unknowns in the ground, such as wells 20 metres deep that posed a challenge. But as work across the sites has progressed our knowledge of the land has improved,” he says.
“And, over the years we have got to know the local people and local businesses, such as valuers, well. We’re getting better and better as the development continues.”
Local people have been vocal about the lack of affordable housing being provided by developers building homes on Ordsall Lane, but so far Fortis has escaped any negative attention. Carmichael admits Fortis’s plans include few government-defined affordable homes but says locals often don’t realise the decision on the provision of affordable homes lies with the council, which has asked for funding contributions to public realm and bus routes instead.
“PRS is the future of renting. It’s going to keep growing and growing”
Chris Carmichael, Fortis Group
The lack of affordable housing, however, has not impeded sales. Most homes are being sold off-plan to investors mainly in the Far East and UK.
As yet, Fortis has not decided whether all the homes will be aimed at the ‘for sale’ market. The developer is exploring opportunities to sell units in bulk to private rented sector (PRS) investors.
“The group is actively speaking to a few PRS investors but nothing is confirmed at the moment,” says Carmichael, who adds that BTR is one of the “big opportunities” Fortis is looking into.
“PRS is the future of renting. It’s going to keep growing and growing,” he explains. “We’re also really interested in micro-living and co-habiting accommodation. We think that could really come to fruition in Manchester.”
Fortis is also keen to expand within its existing territories. It has just put in bids on a site in Manchester and another in Salford, and is looking at other towns in Greater Manchester such as Wigan and Oldham, where the group believes there is pent-up demand for housing.
“Greater Manchester’s job market is booming,” says Carmichael. “Media City in Salford Quays has brought a lot of new jobs to the area and these people need somewhere to live.”
And that is exactly what Fortis plans to provide.