Hala Store Street Plaza

COMMENT | An alternative vision for Piccadilly

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Manchester’s Piccadilly railway station is set to become one of the city’s development hotspots with a comprehensive overhaul put forward by the city council ahead of the arrival of HS2. Here, Hala Al-Abweh, architecture and urbanism student at the University of Manchester, shares her vision for the area with an increased focus on public realm.

While the city council has put forward its strategic regeneration framework for the area, drawn up by Bennetts Associates, Al-Abweh’s proposals are built around key issues: building a community; enhancing the station’s economic offering; making Manchester a beacon of sustainability; and overhauling the station itself to make it not only efficient but also a vibrant environment.

Hala Masterplan 1

Extracts from the vision follow below

This area of Manchester has a high economic value and huge historical importance; certain structures in this site are over 200 years old and unfortunately have suffered from neglect.

The area is rundown and is lifeless. It is home to many depots, warehouses, and large parking structures adding nothing of value to this prime city centre location. Local business, residents, and tourists are de­terred to live or work in this area. This gives us the opportunity to give life back to this once thriving location.

The project will serve as a prime location for residential, cultural, commercial and recreational spaces in the centre of Manches­ter and it will become a new desti­nation for shopping, tourism and a vibrant place to live and work.

From the analysis of the area, it was clear that it is in need of a public space. The goal is to combine main pillars of urban sustainability; community, context, economy, and environment in one inclusive public space. There is also the need to identify who will use the space: commuters who require a fast and easily accessible approach; or the families around the area who need public and recreational spaces; and the tourists who want to experi­ment and explore the culture of Manchester.

Hala Commercial District


With the amount of neglect this area has suffered, there is no sur­prise at the lack of a community.

Satisfying the community’s need is a main priority if we are to address this issue, attract people and local businesses, and bring this area of Manchester back to its former glory.

A new park connects with a promenade running along the re­claimed River Medlock. The once-industrial area is transformed into a family friendly and safe environ­ment.

A cultural commercial spine runs through the site ending with a cultural commercial district and market place encouraging local businesses, providing a new destination for the people to relax, shop, and embrace the culture.

Hala Station Concourse


Following Manchester City Coun­cil’s vision for a sustainable city, a green approach was adopted throughout the site. Green buildings techniques are enforced wherever possible, such as green roofs and the use re­claimed building materials. The reclamation of the polluted River Medlock and creating open green spaces provides an attractive aspect to the site, but also supports the environmentally led design.

A car free neighbourhood not only reduces congestion but reduces noise and air pollution in the site, while utilizing the vast area of the new terminal’s roof for water collection and solar energy to support this extensive site is also proposed.

Hala London Road Bridge Approach


London Road is a major route running through the heart of Manchester and area is currently very congested and enclosed. It doesn’t allow for a direct flow to the station nor provide an attrac­tive entrance to the city, while trams emerge from small openings and can’t be seen clearly, making it quite dangerous for pedestrians.

The current concourse covers the grade two-listed train shed and doesn’t allow for a direct view of this historic station. The flow to get to the platforms from Fairfield Street, contain­ing the drop off zone, the tram stop, and the bus stop, is need­lessly complex.

Store Street located underneath Piccadilly station is very dark, neglected and part of its ware­houses on either side are current­ly being used as parking spaces.

Hala Store Street

The design suggests restoring part of Store Street warehouses and utilizing the arches as active shop fronts on the main road, vastly improving the street appeal. The current high arch structure of Store Street allowed for openings and flow of people. Construction of stairs within the warehouses allows for direct access to the upper plaza as well as allowing for natural light to shine through.

A bridge-like structure connecting the platforms contains the main vertical circulation of the station and allows for direct access to the platforms.

Hala Store Street Plaza

Public plaza

The location of the plaza is cur­rently a vacant land used as a parking space. It is isolated from the surroundings with no ameni­ties nearby making it unsafe and a purposeless area.

The plan proposes to convert this area to an attractive well-connect­ed plaza. A border of buildings containing the plaza provide new amenities, shops, restaurants giving this area life.

Due to the slope of the site, grad­ual steps were created to address the height difference. A staircase directly connects this plaza to the grade two-listed building.

A new park is provided for the existing residential area acting as a buffer from the train station but still allows for direct access.

Hala Station Interior

The station

The plan suggests the use of the undercroft of both the HS2 terminal and Piccadilly station as retail space on two levels. The second level will be accessible within the shop or unit itself with independent staircase or lifts depending on the final design of the unit. The second level could be used as a storage space or an additional retail floor.

With this site being such a prime location in the heart of Manchester, there was a real focus on getting the right Socio-economic balance for this project to be classified as a success.

This vision aimed to create a liveable, vibrant, pleas­ant environment for the community and create an attractive entrance to Manchester. The impact of this pro­ject will clearly be felt further afield and a comprehensive understanding of the personalities of the areas bor­dering the site had to be achieved.

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Nice designs…but I think there’s more chance of it not raining in Manchester for a whole year than this being built.

By Anonymous

Really promising ambition from Hala Al-Abweh, great to see. Well done.

By Anonymous

Difficulty relating designs to current structures except from the current pedestrian bridge where the view is underwhelming. I prefer the current structures it would be sad to see the imaginative current ‘S’ shaped building disappear

By Keith Westerman

What a fantastic vision and designs from a student, shame non of the major architecture firms in the city have such imagination and vision for this metropolis, we all know who they are.

By Anonymous

No flocks of aspirational birds or pink trees – is this really a design at all?

Mind you, we do have the classic stars in the night sky in the middle of city centre so renderlandia hasn’t been failed completely.

Also removing that curved building on Pic Approach should be a criminal offense

By Daveboi

Looks great but what about the out of town places that need redevelopment . Think the money could be spent on other things.

By Anne wilding

Looks nice, however I fear this is as far as mplan realisation will reach, especially when Hs2 north of Brum gets canned

By lovemcr

Having lived in Manchester for 25 years now this proposal is exactly what this area needs, glad to see a fresh and smart approach. Fantastic work Hala Al-Abweh

By Anonymous

From an area that I would only visit on my commute to an area I would love to visit! This would be great to see happen.

By Anonymous

A good strong yet simple and rational vision for a neglected area of the city. One comment about the plaza though is to try and organise levels so to allow the space to be as flexible as possible for events.

By Adam Ash

Shows a complete lack of understanding of the history and how the area has developed. Trying to obliterate the current business uses, which play a vital role for the city, and replace with empty shops would be a disaster.

By Mancunian

Greattt job. Fantastic proposal

By Anonymous

Good to see aspirational thought given to the project. However, the lazy “S” building adjacent to the station has acquired iconic status for many Mancunians and must be preserved & protected.
Well done Hala Al-Abweh.

By By Anonymous

Thank you everyone for your constructive comments. I would like to clarify regarding the iconic Gateway House ‘Lazy S’ building that four different alternatives were studied and sadly it had to be sacrificed, whereas the new Piccadilly SRF suggests that the Lazy S building as well as Store Street warehouses are to be removed. Would be happy to share my full thesis project with anyone who is interested.

By Hala Abweh