The cost of OMA’s new Manchester arts centre, The Factory, could rise for a third time despite attempts to value-engineer its ‘complex’ design
Manchester City Council put aside £110 million for the building when it submitted a planning application in 2016, but has twice been forced to revise the cost of the scheme up. The last budget figure from late 2018 put the price tag at £130.6million.
Now the council has admitted it is struggling to recruit builders within the budget, as it races to finish the job in time for Manchester International Festival in July 2021.
A report for councillors, written by the authority’s strategic development director, revealed that just 11 out of 32 construction packages have been let by construction manager Laing O’Rourke.
The document stated that the ’most significant challenge [with The Factory] remains its complexity,’ adding that the project team was making sure work packages could ‘react to the willingness and ability of the supply chain to undertake this complex project’.
Manchester City Council director of capital programmes Jared Allen told councillors on Tuesday (5 November) that this meant the project team had done ‘quite a lot of re-engineering to reduce some of the cost pressures’.
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But he said he could not guarantee there would not be another significant cost overrun.
‘In terms of surety, we’re not sure,’ he said. ‘We are still in design and negotiation with the supply chain on some of those elements.’
Allen added that while the budget had contained a contingency of £4.1 million, this sum was now ‘under pressure’. He blamed Manchester’s buoyant construction market, explaining to councillors: ‘Complex projects are not as attractive to the supply chain than simpler projects, where they can turn their money over [more] quickly.’
Once finished, the scheme will include a 5,000-capacity flexible performance space known as The Warehouse, as well as a 1,520-seat theatre and related elements.
The council claims the project – a key part of the wider St John’s neighbourhood – will deliver a £1.1 billion boost to the city’s economy over a decade.
Rem Koolhaas’s OMA defeated a shortlist including Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly and Diller Scofidio + Renfro to win the job in 2015.
OMA was contacted for comment.
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