The Debenhams building’s £68.5m redevelopment is definitely happening

The iconic Rylands building will be transformed under newly-approved £68.5m plans.

The Manc The Manc - 22nd January 2021

Major redevelopment plans for the building which houses the Manchester city centre branch of Debenhams will go ahead.

The Rylands building will be transformed, despite previous concerns about an “ugly” rooftop extension.

The plans for the £68.5 million redevelopment – which were first revealed back in August of last year, before it went to full public consultation – by owners AM Alpha will see the iconic building provide a new shopping arcade at street level, along with several floors of new offices.

It would also involve the Grade II listed landmark on Market Street getting a much-needed makeover aimed at restoring its Art Deco glory.

Redevelopment plans come after department store chain Debenhams – which has occupied the Rylands building since 1973 – announced it is closing its flagship premises after battling ongoing financial troubles that were heightened amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, before eventually going into administration last year and putting 12,000 jobs at risk across the UK.


There are no plans for another department store to take its place either, and instead, new shopping, dining and leisure outlets will open in the ground floor and basement.

AM Alpha had also considered converting the building into apartments, a cinema or a gallery, but it has been confirmed that office space was seen as the most sustainable long-term use of the building, with up to 258,000 sq ft of new offices set to occupy most of the vacant upper floors, as well as a 40,000 sq ft four-storey rooftop extension.


An atrium providing natural light between the second and seventh floors is also planned, along with a winter garden on the sixth floor.

AM Alpha

The redevelopment plans have been met with some criticism though.

Piccadilly councillor Sam Wheeler told Manchester’s planning committee that the extension would have a detrimental effect on 15 families living in neighbouring buildings, saying on Thursday that: “I think we can all admit that the box on top of the Grade II listed building is incredibly ugly.


“It has been a policy of the council for some 30 years or so now to promote city centre living, not just city centre existing.

“Each time there is a loss of habitability caused by loss of light in several apartments, that does lower the livability of the city centre.”

The planning committee meeting also heard that a loss of light would have a negative impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of those who would be affected by the rooftop extension, with committee member Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons – also a Piccadilly ward member – adding that the extension would “box in” hundreds of residents living between Market Street and Church Street.

But Katie Wray – Assistant Director at Deloitte, acting on behalf of AM Alpha – said the proposals would “restore and rejuvenate” the Rylands building, and secure its long-term future.

The vote to approve the application was passed by eight councillors, with two voting against and one abstaining.

You can find more information via the Future Rylands website here.