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New Islington is a massive regeneration project in Ancoats, East Manchester, on the site of the Cardroom Estate. Ancoats used to be a thriving industrial area, full of mills and manufacturing plants. During the sixties and early seventies these factories and mills finally closed down, plunging the area into a huge recession. To regenerate the area, the council demolished the cramped Victorian terraces and built the Cardroom Estate.
For several years, the Cardroom Estate was a success. However, the area fell prey to drug dealers, joyriders and shoplifters. By the nineties, the Cardroom had become one of the worst estates in the country with less than 40% of its tenants classed as 'economically active', very high crime rates and more than half of the houses standing empty.
Manchester City Council, Urban Splash and English Partnerships realised the potential of the site, which lies just minutes from the city centre, and decided to create one of the largest regeneration projects ever seen in England. They plan to create a community close to the city centre with a wide range of tenants. A new health centre, primary school, shops, places to eat and drink, green spaces and a water park are all included in the plans and CCTV cameras and high security specs are targeting the crime problems.
The most interesting aspect of the redevelopment is the creative approach to architecture. One of the first completed projects is a row of eccentric houses designed by celebrated architects FAT. Will Alsopp has designed the centrepiece of the project - a building called Chips designed to look like a stack of chips, complete in mock newspaper cladding. There will also be Dutch-inspired houses on stilts.
The existing community have been consulted from the very start of the project. Urban Splash and English Partnerships have promised to make it possible for any household from the existing community to take a similarly sized property (including first dibs on ground floor apartments with gardens) in New Islington. Manchester City Council promise to find them a property similar to their old home on another council estate if they would prefer that.
In conclusion, New Islington is certainly an interesting area at the moment. The project is due for completion in 2012, and various properties are already available for sale. However, it is worth bearing in mind that there are no guarantees with this project. On the one hand, the unique architecture of the buildings in the area means that New Islington will always be distinctive, and if the community is a success you could find that your property is one of the very hottest in the city. However, the issues of the estate should not be ignored, and buyers must be aware that it will be some years before the reality of living in the area matches the promises held out in New Islington's marketing material.