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Hodder reveals new designs for Neville and Giggs’s Manchester tower scheme

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Hodder + Partners has unveiled its new designs for a contentious high-rise scheme in Manchester, backed by footballers-turned-developers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs

The reworked St Michael’s proposal, featuring a single 134.5m centrepiece building, replaces an abandoned twin-tower design drawn up by original architect Make.

Last month Ken Shuttleworth’s practice announced it had resigned from the city centre development after almost a decade working on the job, claiming that the ’current direction’ of the project ’did not align with [its] ambition for the site and [that it was] right to step aside’.

The project was then handed to Stephen Hodder who had been brought in to review the mixed-use scheme in March, after both of Make’s previous attempts had come in for heavy criticism – especially from vocal heritage campaigners.

Among the main changes in the reworked design, which has gone out to public consultation today, is the retention of the historic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and the frontage of the Neoclassical Bootle Street Police Station (1937). Both had been scheduled to be demolished to make way for the Make-designed development, and in January the police station was named on The Twentieth Century Society’s top 10 list of buildings most at risk.

But the 1950s-built Manchester Reform Synagogue in Jackson’s Row is still earmarked for demolition, with a new synagogue built within the podium of the proposed tower block.

The height of the scheme has been reduced by 2m and the tower’s footprint has been pushed to the western edge of the plot so it will be less ’obtrusive when viewed from St Ann’s Square’.

Collage st michael's

Collage st michael’s

The huge Spanish Steps-like valley, which ran through the centre of the original design up to a high-level plaza, has been dropped, with the ground floor level significantly opened up.

There will, however, be a new grand stair linking the development’s main hotel and residential skyscraper with the rooftop garden area of a lower nine-storey office block.

Hodder admitted that little, if any, of the Make scheme remained in the new designs and that his seven-strong team had effectively ‘started again’.

He said: ’For a developer to tear up a previous scheme, in the belief that the scheme he now has is better, is quite extraordinary.

’To date the project has had such a [high] profile because of its location close to the civic centre, the way it was initially received and because of Gary.

’But people have got to look beyond the personality. I hope people will see what the new strategy – to weave the scheme into the fabric of the city – is all about.’

Hodder admitted that the designs for the street and lower levels – which he had already begun working on while briefly collaborating with Shuttleworth – were more progressed than the tower element.

Hodder + Partners' reworked St Michael's proposal, July 2017 - ground floor

Hodder + Partners’ reworked St Michael’s proposal, July 2017 - ground floor

Hodder + Partners’ reworked St Michael’s proposal, July 2017 - ground floor

While the intention was to give ’greater transparency’ to the high-rise block, Hodder said the final iterations were still being worked on and were not being presented as ’a fait accompli’ before the consultation had taken place.  

Speaking on behalf of project backers, the St Michael’s Partnership, Gary Neville added: ’It was important that we got it right and while we believed in the original scheme, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on how we deliver the best possible proposal which balances generating the maximum economic benefits for the city and job creation, and our architectural ambition, with heritage and conservation.

‘We did not shy away from the passionate debate around the original proposals but instead embraced it in a positive spirit and addressed some of the issues raised head on.’

The changes seem to have gone some way to appeasING Historic England, a key opponent of Make’s proposal, which it claimed ‘would have aggressively pushed itself into the existing streets, dominating its surroundings and dwarfing the nationally important civic buildings which define this part of the city’.

In its initial response to the revised scheme, the heritage organisation conceded that ’major steps [had] been taken to address the concerns regarding the impact of tall development on heritage assets of the highest significance’. Historic England also acknowledged that the reworked plan created a new through route and public square which ’have the potential to enhance the conservation area’.

A replacement planning application is expected to be submitted in mid August in the hope that Manchester City Council’s planning committee can determine the scheme by the end of November.

Full statement from Historic England

Catherine Dewar, planning director in the North West for Historic England
We are very pleased that such positive progress has been made at St Michael’s. The new masterplan still needs work but it’s getting there.

We strongly believe that this extraordinary area of Manchester deserves a thoughtful scheme which responds to its surroundings, contributes to the neighbouring streets and welcomes people in. The new proposals are much closer to achieving this and have the potential to enhance the character of the Deansgate/Peter Street conservation area, rather than dominate it, as the previous scheme threatened.

We are happy to see that the front building of the former police headquarters complex will now be kept and that the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub will be incorporated into the development because although they aren’t listed, these buildings have soul and tell important stories about our city’s past.

We also welcome the fact that there is now only one tower in the scheme which has been moved to a different part of the site, further away from the Town Hall, and twisted around. This change means it has much less of an impact on the grand civic buildings here, including the nationally important Grade-II* listed Central Library, Grade-I listed Town Hall and Grade-I listed St Ann’s Church.

The right development on this site could create a better environment for those who live and work in Manchester, adding life and vibrancy to these streets.

We will continue to advise the developer and council as the plans progress.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It'll surely be the design of the tower block that makes or breaks this proposal, as far as the quality of life in the city centre is concerned, so the worked-up design for the new tower will have to be a great deal more sensitive than the two overbearing monsters proposed by Make.

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