“Independent brands are sustaining our vision for Kampus”

Our colleague Adam Brady has been involved in the regeneration of Kampus since 2014. In that decade, he’s worked alongside our HBD team, creative thinkers, architects, designers and our partners Capital&Centric to create an authentic new community for Manchester; here he tells us how the vision has become a reality.

It’s not every day you get to take on the transformation of 2.5 acres of land right in the centre of the city, and that’s one of the reasons why Kampus is so special.

Since 2014, we’ve worked alongside our partners Capital&Centric to bring this former university campus back into use. It’s been quite the journey, the heart of which has been our vision to create an authentic community.

Something different for Manchester

Manchester’s a great city, and its regeneration over the past two or three decades has been incredible to witness, but we wanted Kampus to stand out. We didn’t want homogenous architecture and shiny glazed buildings; we wanted diversity, a connection with surrounding neighbourhoods, and a population of people who wanted to live and work here.

There were two main sources of inspiration. Our immediate environment and Kampus’ restored buildings like Minto and Turner were fun to work with and helped us keep that industrial aesthetic that typifies Manchester. But we also wanted to mirror great international examples of urban regeneration – communities in places like Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where neighbourhoods have been delivered at a human scale, successfully promoting interactions between neighbours and friends.

We wanted to introduce nature; sure, there was room for more buildings, but we prioritised a shared green space, with overgrown plants akin to what you’d find in Kristiania – Copenhagen’s famous free state with gritty buildings, oversized ferns and its unique, post-apocalyptic feel.

Building for generation rent

Drawing on such places helped determine the design of Kampus, but what of the residential offering itself? For that we turned our attentions to Build to Rent (BTR) – a fairly new phenomenon in 2014, but something we knew we wanted to help introduce to Manchester.

We wanted residents to benefit from a service and shared goals for the community; as much as Kampus was an investment for us, we were primarily driven by our role as developers, truly committed to nurturing a community of great people here.

We travelled to the States where BTR was already a well-established proposition; Chicago was the city in which we learned most about BTR and the importance of service, taking our learnings back to Manchester and offering homes to rent for all, in a burgeoning new neighbourhood with great shared spaces and places to hangout.

Capturing Manchester’s independent sprit

Creating those communal places was central to our vision. We didn’t want a corporate presence, instead we wanted Kampus to be a platform for new ideas, passionate independents who wanted to share their crafts, food, or drink with the city.

In the mid 2010s, I remember sitting down and saying that some of the operators we wanted wouldn’t even exist yet, so it was a long journey and one that required a departure from the mainstream property approach. We shunned brochures and formality, instead reaching out to the makers of the future who would add real value to Kampus.

It’s amazing to think we did that through Covid, signing leases and all taking a chance during that turbulence. Fast forward today and that vision is a reality, with an inimitable culture and community spirit that’s underpinned by an independent ecosystem; a short walk around the neighbourhood (through those aforementioned overgrown ferns!) will take you past a Viennoiserie bakery, a Mexican restaurant, a New York style pizza place, a cocktail bar and more.

An independent legacy

I’ve always worried about sustaining our initial vision for Kampus, but the legacy undoubtedly lives on by the independent operators here – people who share our values and make Kampus their own – all the while remaining connected and complementing each other.

We never set out to imitate, instead we wanted to take the best of Manchester, blend it with world-class neighbourhoods, and establish something really unique. With the help of residents, creatives, and our independent operators we’ve certainly done that.