A long-awaited public consultation has opened to help shape future design proposals for the much-criticised public square and surrounding areas.
The eight-week consultation covers an area centred around Piccadilly Gardens but also including Piccadilly, Mosley Street, the Parker Street bus interchange area and Market Street in the city centre. Manchester City Council had initially hoped the consultation would launch before the end of last year.
In pre-Covid times, more than 150,000 people per day passed through Piccadilly Gardens. But the area has been neglected in recent times and become a hotspot for crime, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour. The council has been working with landscape architect LDA for more than 12 months to look at the different functions the area serves and how it might be improved.
The council is now inviting people to share their thoughts and aspirations for the area as it seeks to meet its goals including “designing out” crime and other issues and bringing in more of the elements that people want from a city centre public space.
Along with asking for ideas on the type of features and events the area should house, the questionnaire accompanying a virtual exhibition floats the possibility of reducing the volume of bus services on either side of the gardens, both at Parker Street and stops around the foot of Oldham Street.
The survey is now open and runs until Sunday 21 March.
The consultation process, heavily trailed at various points in 2020 following the January appointment of LDA, follows the demolition of the freestanding part of Tadao Ando-designed wall in November last year – the first stage of the Piccadilly Gardens improvement process.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The Piccadilly area is an important part of the city that has enormous potential and attracts strong opinions. We know it can be better and we are committed to bringing forward improvements.
“The plans we ultimately will bring forward will be about creating a modern Piccadilly area that includes a friendly, lively and welcoming public space designed to balance the different functions it serves.”
Leese said there is not a “completely blank canvas,” and outlined that the project will have to work around tramlines and statues and the pavilion building owned by LGIM Real Estate. He concluded: “We can and will be imaginative and seek to deliver a public space set in a vastly improved streetscape.”
Speaking to Place North West, LDA Design director Mark Graham said the firm would focus on creating a “welcoming, enhanced space” and hopes the period of public consultation will inform the design brief ahead of the submission of concept designs later this year.