Neville: St Michael’s challenge still in front of us

The evolution of the proposals for the mixed-use St Michael’s rumbles on, with the latest round of consultation into the revised designs due next week. As more details are set to emerge, developer Gary Neville talks to Place North West about high-end residential, hospitality, and homelessness.

Neville and fellow ex-footballer Ryan Giggs’ development company is behind the controversial Bootle Street scheme, backed by Singaporean investors and set to be built by Beijing Construction Group. After uproar surrounding the first iteration of the project, which proposed two dark bronze-clad towers looming over Albert Square, demolishing all historic buildings on site, a new version of the scheme was revealed last month; one 30-storey tower, and keeping the Bootle Street police station and Sir Ralph Abercromby pub. Previous architect Make has been replaced by Manchester favourite Hodder + Partners.

Neville was tightlipped on what could be expected from the more detailed St Michael’s design, preferring to wait until the public consultation due to take place next week.

However, through all the variations in the plans, Neville has been consistent on one point; his belief in the need for the site to deliver luxury residential accommodation, and potentially a five-star hotel.

Why have you stuck to your guns about the need for high-end residential at St Michael’s?

The central location demands it. The city doesn’t have the array of five star hotels; it doesn’t have an array of real high quality hotels, unlike Prague, Berlin, Barcelona or Munich.

Twenty years ago, there weren’t many people living in the city at all and now it’s completely changing, and with that service levels need to improve. I personally can’t differentiate between a residential development and a hotel; I cannot differentiate it at all. People who live in an apartment in the city must, in my mind, have access to high-quality service, whether that’s cleaning, whether that’s security, whether that’s concierge, or the choice to have nothing.

With both hospitality and residential with St Michael’s, we really do want to try and link the services together. It successfully happens in major cities around the world, and I do class Manchester as being a major city. I accept also the other challenges at the other end of the scale around homelessness and affordable housing but, on this particular site, it has to be pushed towards the high-end residential, high-quality service, a high-quality hotel.

Is there a risk of developing an upper class enclave, with no link into the city?

There is no doubt on this particular site the way to maximise profit would have been to go only for a hotel and as much residential as possible. However, we’ve decided that we definitely want a mixed-use scheme and we’ve put 140,000 sq ft of offices in there, purely to create a space which means there are thousands of people walking down those streets every day, rather than creating something which feels dead. On top of that, we are looking at about 40,000 sq ft of food and beverage and leisure. We’ve got great plans for the roof of the office building which, again, will hope to drive people through those streets, and connectivity is important for us.

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