Meaningful places start with Worthwhile Use


Humans are the only species that live not just in the present, but also consciously and continuously draw on experiences from the past.

We are social beings and have always depended on, and benefitted from learning – and cooperation – of others.

At U+I, we take this human approach to placemaking, because the places we create are designed for real people (and by real people).

We start with Worthwhile Use. It is always at the forefront of our minds when we consider a development - before we’ve even signed the dotted line. That’s because it provides an opportunity to connect with the local community from the very start, to get to know their stories and experiences, learn and apply what we learn to that particular project. Ultimately, it makes complete, human sense.

Worthwhile Use also makes fundamental business sense. If we’re committed to delivering long term social and economic value through our projects, it needs to be authentic and relevant to that community.

These two principles – taking a human-approach to placemaking, and delivering authentic social and economic value – come together with the launch of Mayfield & Co, Manchester’s newest co-working community.

The community is the latest fruit of the Mayfield Development Partnership, a joint venture between Manchester City Council, LCR, Transport for Greater Manchester and U+I. One that will breathe life back into the derelict Mayfield space and create an iconic, £850m mixed-use community in the area over the next 10 years.

The first steps towards reactivating this historic yet recently unloved site were taken in June 2017 when we launched food and drink event space GRUB – our first Worthwhile Use project in Manchester. But after almost a two-year listening exercise, we sought to do more with the temporary space. We wanted to bring the site’s historical essence back.

Mayfield is steeped in Manchester’s rich history as the world’s first industrial city – an economic powerhouse at the heart of the international textile trade, which of course earned it the nickname Cottonopolis.

It was here, on the banks of the River Medlock in 1782, that industrialist Thomas Hoyle founded the Mayfield Print Works.

Over the next decade, the Hoyle family mastered methods of printing colours – particularly purple – onto calico cloth. Purples were a huge technical challenge at the time meaning the use of the colour was preserved for the rich and influential, principally the clergy.

Pushing the boundaries of the day’s scientific knowledge, Hoyle’s techniques made exquisitely patterned purple cloths available to the growing middle classes. And made his fortune.

These prints achieved brand name status by the middle of the century and visitors came from across the world to the Mayfield works to marvel at a mile of calico being printed in an hour - a symbol of industrial achievement through technology.

With the launch of Mayfield & Co, Manchester’s newest co-working community, it’s wonderful to bring some of that pioneering spirit of Mancunian enterprise back to the area.

Three different start-ups form the first line-up; Commonplace, a mobile event space operating out of a double decker bus; Bottle and Candle – a manufacturer of candles and reed diffusers; and Project Windsor – designer and retailer of high quality cotton bed sheets and home textiles.

By creating a space for this new community to share different perspectives and ideas, Mayfield & Co won’t just provide a platform through which these businesses can grow and mature – it too will thrive.

After all, our overall vision for the site has always been to create a melting pot of resident and business communities, coming together to deliver real social and economic value to the area. Mayfield & Co is just the beginning of that story.

We know that from experience. When we set up FIELD – a temporary but dynamic and collaborative hub for start-ups – at our Worthwhile space at Preston Barracks, Brighton, little did we know the residents would go on to create their own company when works commenced on site. But they have carried on where FIELD left off with the formation of LEFTFIELD and are continuing to deliver economic value to the area as its residents start to settle in.

Ultimately, if we put up hoardings and waited until we secured planning, we’d lock out the community we are working so hard to foster. But commit to forming a relationship with that community from the start, and it will flourish for years to come.