Canada House, Manchester
Canada House, listed at Grade II, on Chepstow Street in Manchester was built by W.G. Higginbottom in 1908-09 for J.S. Booth and Company, a major Manchester textile company. The building was the fourth packing warehouse of a cluster (known as Princes Buildings A, B, C, and D) they owned in the immediate vicinity.
Until 1800, the land was open fields but the opening of the nearby Rochdale Canal in 1804 spurred the expansion of the centre of Manchester southwards, towards the district that included Chepstow Street. The area developed as another industrial quarter - specialising in iron, glass, and marble works, with slum dwellings for workers, as well as warehouses including Canada House.
Canada House was designed in an 'art nouveau' style and many of these features remain, making an important contribution to the character of the building. The building has six floors and a basement and was laid out to be used both by J.S. Booth and other tenants.
One important feature of the design was to allow for flexible office space on the more elaborate western side with the processing of cloth on the more functional eastern side overlooking a spur of the canal running the length of the building. This significant design aspect has had an influence on the later uses of Canada House including the recent refurbishment.
New commercial use of the building
Canada House was recently bought by L J Real Estate, who has carried out a major refurbishment of the building into modern office space. There are now 24 resident businesses, of these, eight are in the digital or creative industries. The building is at full capacity. New amenities such as the Clink Café, screening and meeting rooms and co-working spaces have all been introduced.
What attracted the new owners to the building?
The LJ Real Estate team believe that the path to more sustainable cities is the retention and smart refurbishment, of existing buildings. They see that historic buildings such as Canada House are steeped in history; its design and character contributing to its uniqueness, making an exciting place to work.
Contribution of the historic element of the building to its new function
The refurbishment of Canada House has combined the building’s original historic features with the best of modern design; placing an emphasis on sustainability and wellbeing, incorporating energy saving measures into both the refurbishment and the on-going management of the building. Original features have been well preserved and restored and kept as part of the redesign. For example; the textile packing benches are being used as additional desk space in many floors, the wrought iron staircase and common area walls have been repainted matching their original colour, the iron doors to the original lift shafts have been repainted and used as a feature in the Clink Café behind their counter and a bar in one of the tenant’s offices, and new LED lighting fittings have been chosen in the style of the original lighting. Rainwater harvesting (used in the toilets) helps to reduce the building’s environmental impact.
Canada House stands out in the area
Canada House is situated near to the Central Library and Archive, Greater Manchester Central Convention Centre (formerly GMEX), China Town and Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University. The surrounding area has retained its former role as a major area for culture and entertainment with the Palace Theatre, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester HOME and Manchester Art Gallery all in close proximity, as well as a number of historic pubs.
The surrounding area has a number of historic buildings some have been refurbished and are now home to different sectors whilst others are still in need of investment to attract occupiers that appreciate the character and story of older buildings. However, there does appear to be a cluster effect in and around the location and more exciting businesses are moving in. Following the refurbishment of Canada House it is now a successful hub for a number of different businesses including start-ups, as well as established businesses of different sizes. The flexibility of the space within the building means Canada House can meet the needs of companies wanting to stay for anywhere from a day up to 25 years. Over 450 people now use or flow through the building each day.
The increase in requirements for spaces for co-working, new start-up businesses and digital connectivity contributes to helping build ‘communities’ within the building – an important goal in the refurbishment of Canada House. The Building now has open areas with shared tables and desks, and flexible space for workers as well as small segregated rooms for those wanting dedicated or private spaces. In addition to this, there are spaces for eating and drinking, and meeting rooms providing facilities for audio and video conference calls, which all enhance the community ethos of the office spaces.
To help maintain the sustainability of Canada House, the focus on smart technology and high speed connectivity means the building will meet both the current and future demands of its users. Social media means the story of Canada House and its occupants can be shared with the community. Integral to all such creative places, the café (the Clink) is open to the public and is becoming a popular meeting spot. An emphasis has been placed on improving the well-being for tenants with more shared areas and meeting spaces. The café is an example of a social contribution to the area by training and re-habilitating clients of the Clink charity (for prisoners) and Centrepoint charity (for homeless people).