The Oversights That Turned A Building Project To A Nightmare

Acquire | Invest | Develop

It is rare for a major city development to turn so quickly from a prospect with so much promise to an inhospitable nightmare that requires dilapidations consultancy to resolve, but one of the most shocking examples happened over just seven years.

The Orchid Point development project began in 2011 when the company FreshStart Living purchased Empress Mill and Trafford Press, two historic buildings formerly part of Manchester’s paper industry and located in Old Trafford.

The idea was to buy the buildings, renovate and convert them into apartments, with the appeal of being a characterful set of buildings well within walking distance of the city centre and only a few minutes away from the Cornbrook tram stop.

However, right from the beginning, there were problems. Empress Mill initially did not have a power supply, instead being powered entirely by a generator. This would typically be a red flag but somehow the building was approved after a survey.

However, by October 2013, a second set of regulators deemed the building unsafe and evacuated residents, something that would become a trend.

FreshStart would go into liquidation at the same time, but its director, DS7 Limited, would fund another company, Absolute Living Developments to pick up the building and make enough renovations to make it habitable.

They did, just about, and aside from a strong wind knocking over the building’s lone temporary scaffold staircase, residents were granted around three years of respite before problems started again.

Absolute Living Developments went into liquidation and the building was taken over by a right-to-manage (RTM) consortium of buyers based in Hong Kong known as the Mill Owners RTM Company, who had initially invested in the development based on the prospect of high yields.

However, the final straw came as a result of new legislation that came into effect after the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, which led to the building being condemned as a fire risk and residents being evacuated for the final time in August 2018.

Its title status is complicated by several long leasehold interests, and several sales have fallen through. As of 2023, it remains dormant, occupied by squatters.

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