A NEWSPAPER centre will become Wigan’s biggest hotel, bringing headline-making jobs and a huge boost for the local economy.
In an exciting £5m project, Martland Mill, home of the Wigan Observer and Wigan Evening Post for the last three decades, is to become a showpiece Holiday Inn Express welcoming its first guests by Christmas at the latest.
The hotel, which expects 80 per cent plus occupancy at weekends, will initially offer 87 rooms but that could rise to 110 within two years.
More than 40 full-time jobs will be created and the Preston-based developers, Printing Press Services International (PPSI), calculate it could be worth as much as £60m to the town’s economy over the 20-year cycle of the lease.
Experts in the hospitality industry foresee approaching 30,000 hotel visits a year - with visiting fans at the DW Stadium a “significant” customer base.
Wigan Observer and Wigan Evening Post staff stay within the Martland Mill building, relocating to the ground floor with a new separate entrance to the hotel.
Holiday Inn is part of the Intercontinental Hotels group, one of the world’s largest with over 4,000 venues.
The deal sees PPSI MD Stephen McManamon’s personal involvement with the site come full circle.
He and his father, chairman of the company Joe McManamon, installed and commissioned the newspaper’s presses when the building was opened by then United Newspapers in 1982 as a bold regional printing and publishing centre with 24-hour production.
Indeed, initially, he had planned to turn the giant existing press hall into a manufacturing plant for press equipment, his predominant business concern, surrounded by offices.
Then during a tour of Martland Mill, his father remarked that the layout would “make a great hotel”... and the redevelopment proposals dramatically changed tack.
For the last six months Stephen, 51, and his small team of staff have personally overseen the preparation of the site for its rebirth as a hotel.
He is now urging Wigan tradesmen who would like to tender for plastering, electrical and fitting-out contracts to get in touch, to support local employment further.
And he spoke out strongly in praise of the council for the way it had helped nurture the “regeneration” project since he first raised it with town hall chiefs.
The Wigan Holiday Inn Express deal - the first between Preston and Warrington - was officially signed at a board meeting this week.
Mr McManamon believes the hotel will be a terrific success because of Wigan’s excellent railway and motorway communications - and the potential for industrial growth because of them.
He believes that the extensive landscaping and striking visual design he has planned for the Martland Mill Lane frontage will set the hotel apart from competitors.
Mr McManamon said: “This may have been a newspaper centre but its grid layout is absolutely perfect for conversion into a hotel.
“The views, particularly from the first floor room windows out over towards Wigan town centre a mile away, are just spectacular and every room will have excellent daylight.
“Its a quiet location, set back from any main roads and yet near enough for visitors to enjoy the facilities, perfect in fact and I am certain it is going to be a fantastic success.
“I was just 21 when I first came to Martland Mill over the installation of the presses.
“And 30 years later it is immensely satisfying to be responsible for finding a new and very productive use for the site and one that will play its part in creating jobs and boosting the Wigan economy.”