St Michaels Approved Tower
Hodder's design, announced in July

Hodder changes proving popular, says St Michael’s team

The first public engagement event for the revised St Michael’s scheme in Manchester city centre has prompted a “significant number of positive responses from the general public and others,” the partnership behind the project has said.

More than 400 people attended a consultation session at Central Library, at which the Hodder + Partners-designed iteration of the scheme was revealed.

Of those people, 182 completed feedback forms, with 84% expressing either “support” or “support with reservations”. And while a previous consultation on the old proposals had seen 70% register opposition, the new plans found 10% of the survey respondents opposed.

The headline changes were the change to a single tower, slightly shorter than originally mooted, along with the retention of the frontage of Bootle Street Police Station and the Sir Ralph Abercromby Pub.

The St Michael’s Partnership said that around 84% of people provided some form of positive feedback for the scheme, with around 10 percent opposed to the revised plans.

On behalf of the partnership, Gary Neville said: “We want St Michael’s to make a major contribution to the city, and we want to play an active role in the life and future of this city for many years to come. It’s our city. So we couldn’t ignore the concerns expressed by many.

“We decided to rethink things, to try and find that balance between the heritage aspects of the site, the scale and massing issues and our ambitions to create a truly international standard development. We think Manchester deserves that and we’re obviously delighted that the public has responded so positively to our revised proposals.

“Our focus now and over the coming weeks is to continue to review and respond to public feedback as we build up to the next consultation in August.”

The scheme as it stands includes a new synagogue and active street level uses including a new public square, similar in size to Lincoln Square, adjacent to the Abercromby pub.

In the reworked version of the scheme, the tower has been rotated by 90 degrees to reduce visual impact from key public squares, and the second tower, earmarked for offices, is replaced by a nine-storey building with larger floorpaltes of around 15,000 sq ft. The tower will feature apartments and a hotel, as before.

The professional team for St Michael’s includes Planit-IE, which is designing the outdoor spaces, and Zerum, which is acting as development manager and planning consultant along with Deloitte. Engineering consultancy WSP is leading on environmental impact assessment.

Hodder + Partners was drafted in as consultant after the scheme became mired in controversy earlier this year. The Manchester firm then replaced Make as lead architect in June.

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They’ve got a truly difficult task on their hands and Neville and his team deserve a lot of credit for being so flexible and accommodating. The amount of fees they will have written off doesn’t bear thinking about.

I think some of the objectors won’t be happy though unless it turns out very low rise. I think this is straying into idealism and NIMBYism. There comes a point where you have to compromise and accept that certain parameters such as the general scale are largely fixed.

This is not the fault of the developers but the Council who refused to entertain any sort of tall buildings policy and have a very top-down mindset when it comes to planning, pushing them to go for that sort of scale in the first place.

The best thing now would be to refine the current scheme as much as possible and push the architects who are a middling sort of firm to produce something approaching international class.

By Just another opinion

If Albert Sq happened to be in a World Heritage Site, it would be interesting to see if the revised designs (which are a vast improvement on the original) would be agreeable in a sensitive area?

Really glad to see common sense prevailing!

By Anon

How can Albert Sq be even remotely considered to be a World Heritage Site.
Please, it’s absolute nonsense.

The previous design had several flaws but at least it was something different, original, and brave.
Now we’ll have another mediocre glass block, with the hope that it will be undistinguished at most.

By Cmon

The old scheme was inappropriate by virtue of its very significant impact on a conservation area and demolition of an important historical building. The new design addresses these issues directly and shows promise.

By Anon2

Important historical building?
The pub??
Again, this is very debatable.

I like the fact that the police station facade is going to be retained (that was worth complaining about).
On the other hand, I can’t find anything nice/interesting in the tower design. Which is right in the middle of the city centre and (in my opinion) will not add any value to it.
I’ll give the architect the benefit of the doubt considering the very limited time they had to pull this together and the limited information available at the moment.

By Cmon

‘Proving popular’? The developers are playing with words – and numbers:

4550+ sign petition – TOO TALL for this location
1400 formally object to planning application
400 people visit a one-day exhibition showing some changes, inc keeping the pub and small part of the ex-police station
182 of those complete a comment form
148 tick boxes saying they either support OR support ‘with reservations’.

That’s not a mandate for a 38 storey tower so close to the historic core, looming over Albert Square.

What’s ‘proving popular’ is the change of direction, to keep the pub and a slice of Bootle street, but NOT the plans overall – they’re still too big and bulky for this location.

By Lesley