Northern cities are leading the way in urban regeneration. By Mary Wilson
LORD ROGERS of Riverside's recent Urban Task Force report set out to encourage house builders to regenerate redundant inner city buildings and to suggest ways to encourage people back into the city centres.

In many areas of the UK, though, including our northern cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle, regeneration has long been in progress, with burgeoning redevelopment of former derelict warehouse areas and dilapidated industrial areas.

"We broadly support the initiatives proposed in the report," says Julian d'Arcy of Knight Frank's development office for Manchester and Leeds, "but I think that the private sector has already demonstrated its willingness to tackle inner-city regeneration.

"However, unless obstacles in the planning system are removed, schemes will not move forward as they should."

In Manchester, the population of the city centre was a mere 400 six years ago. Now there are around 5,000 people living there, after a massive regeneration programme has breathed life back into the heart of the city.

One of the newest developments in the area is the Tobacco Factory. This conversion of the old Co-op owned factory in Ludgate Hill will be five minutes from the Print Works - a new leisure centre with multiplex cinema, bowling, gym and restaurants.

Two buildings are being converted, with a total of 100 units. In the first phase, 37 large one- and two-bedroom loft apartments will have double-height industrial windows and wooden floors; those on the third floor will have vaulted roofs. Knight Frank is selling the apartments for pounds 70,000 to pounds 180,000.

Century Buildings, in St Mary's Parsonage in the centre of Manchester, is a conversion of the old Royal & Sun Alliance offices by Nicholson Estates. "With the city due to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the resident population due to double within the next year, we believe that prime residential accommodation is needed in the city," says Angela South, sales and marketing director. Prices range from pounds 100,000 to pounds 650,000.

Leeds is also seeing a tremendous amount of regeneration. "Over the last decade, city-centre living in Leeds has become acceptable again," says Jonathan Maud of The Rushbond Group, which is involved in a number of residential schemes in the centre.

The company is building 20 apartments in the Crosby Homes development, New Portland Square, and is propos-ing the regeneration of the Brewery Wharf area, the last piece of riverside frontage before Crown Point Bridge. Here half a million square feet of space will be used for restaurants, retail, offices and around 250 apartments.

Crosby Homes is also redeveloping the Waddington's Wharf factory site at Crown Point. This will be known as Merchant's Quay; from the end of August, 127 one-, two- and three-bed apartments will be marketed - from pounds 70,000 to pounds 450,000 through Knight Frank.

Mackintosh House in North Street, Leeds is an Art Deco building which Country and Metropolitan Homes (Northern) is transforming into nine two- bedroom apartments. At the end of August some apartments will go on sale for between pounds 80,000 and pounds 100,000; others will be to let for between pounds 500 and pounds 700 a month.

"We had such a success with our conversion of the 150-year-old Tannery in the north Leeds suburb of Meanwood, that we realised there was a demand for city-centre conversions," says Janis Stone, of Country and Metropolitan. "We are selling to under- thirties who are working in Leeds city centre and who do not want to use a car. They want to be able to walk home from work and have everything on the doorstep."

Yet another development in Leeds is a conversion of a Victorian school in Armley, an area not yet considered fashionable, but the fringe of the city centre. "There is a big market for people who cannot afford to live in the centre, but still want a similar sort of living space - people who work in the city's bars and restaurants rather than visit them," says Martin Walker of Headingly Estates.

Old School Lofts will have 66 one- and two-bedroom apartments, all with suspended mezzanines, 15ft-high windows, and hardwood floor. These will be to let from around pounds 350 a month.

In Newcastle, the Quayside area south of the river is now completely redeveloped and, with a new pedestrian Millennium Bridge being built across th water to the other side, the northern bank is now ripe for conversion.

"The city has now become one of the key regional cities in England and from a property point of view seems to be attracting a lot of interest from investors all over the UK," says Duncan Young of agents Sanderson Young. "Another area about to be redeveloped is the West End, where several loft conversions are in the pipeline."

Yuill Homes has turned the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital, which is one mile from the city centre, into 50 high-quality townhouses and apartments; although most of Princess Mary Court is now sold, there are still 10 two- and three-bedroom apartments in the North Wing, to be sold in the early autumn from pounds 100,000 to pounds 450,000.

GA Property Services is marketing the Red Box building, the former main Post Office which is lies opposite St Nicholas' Cathedral. The current phase of 12 one- and two-bedroom apartments is set over commercial space, which will be used for an art gallery, restaurants and offices. Prices for the apartments are from pounds 110,000 to pounds 390,000.

Knight Frank Manchester, 0161-833 0023; Knight Frank Leeds, 0113-297 6040; Nicholson Estates, 01959 564130; Country & Metropolitan, 01937 583306; Headingley Estates, 0113-225 8409; Sanderson Young, 0191-213 0033; GA Property Services, 0191-284 5761; Yuill Homes, 0191-281 6314