New Islington has never looked so good.
Its growing potential seems to mirror – and in some cases, outshine – its quirky neighbours, the Northern Quarter and Ancoats, which have seen lots of redevelopment over the last 30 years.
The mix of architecture reflected resplendently in the canal has been the key to creating a sense of place. Public realm works, a health centre, a school, housing at Chips, Islington Square, Guest Street and The Guts, all feel like the scheme is a greyhound that’s just been let out of the traps. It’s even got its own park called Cotton Field, and a new marina.
The potential wasn’t always crystal clear. Although the area was once the city’s former industrial heartland, by the sixties this place had become a slum of demolished houses and crime. It was a bit… rough. A place where no taxi driver wanted to venture nor where you’d want to be dropped off either.
Award-winning regeneration company Urban Splash won the bid to transform the area back in 2000 as one of the UK’s most exciting transformation projects. Fast forward 20 years and six architectural awards later and New Islington is now one of Manchester’s coolest communities and rated as one of the top ten best places to live in the country by the Sunday Times.
And you can see why. Walking around the place you immediately feel a real sense of community spirit which can be a rarity in new developments which too often feel soulless and windy. But not here in New Islington. It’s pretty refreshing, to say the least.
The sheer scale of the development itself is staggering. Up to 2,000 new homes and commercial spaces with an array of eateries, shops, and bars with a gross development value of £575m.
New Islington is a thriving community filled with a mix of family homes, apartments and social housing all side by side with independent businesses and places to run and play as well as sit and stay.
On top of that there’s all of the amenities needed for a growing community to thrive, such as great public transport, a school and a health centre.
You almost get the feeling that the new neighbourhood has had the benefit of watching and learning where similar areas have gone wrong.
Everything the city centre has to offer is on your doorstep plus all the benefits of a communal green open space and canal, making it a hybrid of urban city centre living and a family friendly neighbourhood.
Transport and travel
New Islington is well-connected when it comes to public transport, with its own tram stop in Metrolink Zone 1 – just one stop from Piccadilly with all its national rail connections.
Trams run approximately every 12 minutes between Eccles and Ashton-Under-Lyne, with a direct connection from New Islington to MediaCityUK.
The 216 bus runs from New Islington tram stop to Ashton-Under-Lyne, calling at the Etihad Stadium on the way.
Bars and restaurants
Home of the legendary cruffin (that’s a croissant/muffin hybrid for the uninitiated) and almost as legendary queues, Pollen Bakery next to the tranquil waterside of New Islington Marina is one of Ancoats’ hidden gems.
The bakery has a cool, Scandi-chic cafe area with plenty of seating so you can chow down on your pastry with one of their special blend coffees or organic juices. But get there early because it’s notorious for queues out the door and pastries often sell-out before lunch. But don’t worry if you miss them, because they have an excellent brunch and lunchtime menu, too.
Since opening just over a year ago on the canal side of the Cotton Field Wharf apartment complex, Cask have brought their customary comprehensive selection of real ales and craft beer from Castlefield to a new part of town that appreciates a mix of the old and the new.
Also in the Ancoats Marina is newcomer Northern Eudaimonia, which serves waffles, crepes and ice cream – as well as ice cream for dogs, so your best friend needn’t feel left out.
You’re also just a hop from local street food heroes Hip Hop Chip Shop, a skip from award-winning Italian restaurant, Sugo, and a jump from the UK’s best pizza at Rudy’s. Not to mention a stone’s throw away from Michelin-starred Mana.
Parks and recreation
New Islington Marina is a waterside haven. Come rain or shine you’ll find dog walkers stopping for a chat with each other, plenty of joggers and even personal trainers using the space with their clients, in the shadow of modern buildings and old cotton mills behind.
At the heart of New Islington sits Cotton Field, an idyllic water park where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Improvement works have recently been completed, and it’s used daily by families and people young and old for fitness and sport, walking and picnics. People use this space to connect with others, which is important for a dynamic city like Manchester. You can chill out in the open spaces and seating areas amongst mature trees and floating wildlife islands. A great fishing spot, too.
Although it’s not really a proper park, New Islington tram stop is a small green space packed with locals doing yoga, drinking beers in the sunshine or reading a book. Oh and waiting for a tram.
Sitting pretty next to New Islington Marina, New Islington Free School is a mixed gender primary school funded directly by the Department for Education and has been rated as outstanding at its most recent Ofsted inspection.
Working in collaboration with Manchester Grammar School, they’ve developed an exciting curriculum designed to equip children with knowledge and skills for the future, with learning taking place both inside and outside the classroom.
Property prices in New Islington have risen in the past year but are still affordable.
‘House’ is a new concept for mass housing that exploits clever modular planning to create spacious, flexible spaces – and you can pretty much design them yourself. The first 43 townhouses built at the marina sold out and completed within a year.
So Urban Splash are back building 17 beautiful new three and four bedroom family homes overlooking the canal. Each 1,500 sq ft house is spread over three light-filled floors which have been designed to suit the way you want to live. Each Town House comes with parking, a private outdoor space and communal residents’ gardens where you can spread out or have a kick about. Prices start from £479,000 with just 5% deposit with Help to Buy.
This is the Place is the name of a poem by Tony Walsh commissioned by Forever Manchester, the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. And they can’t do it without your help. Donate what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a hugely rewarding experience. There’s a unique sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are making a real difference to the lives of others, especially to those close to home.