Developer's CGI of proposed scheme

MIPIM UK: Bernstein defends St Michael’s as Ingall and Leahy wade in

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

While Manchester City Council’s chief executive continued to back the proposed £200m city centre project as “appropriate”, prominent developers have taken to Twitter to call St Michael’s “horrible” and “utterly wrong”.

The council is development partner in the St Michael’s scheme planned for Bootle Street, working with former footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, and developer Brendan Flood.

The 700,000 sq ft mixed-use project proposed for the site off Albert Square was initially controversial due to plans to demolish all historic buildings on site. Since detailed designs by Make Architects were revealed showing two black-clad towers of 21 and 31 storeys, criticism against the scheme has grown due to its scale so close to civic buildings such as the Town Hall and Central Library.

Speaking to Place North West at the MIPIM UK conference in London, Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, stressed that St Michael’s “does not have planning permission yet, and there will be a process that will be discharged fully and properly.”

However, “while I’m not here to defend the details of St Michael’s”, Bernstein said that the council’s plans for tall buildings on the site had been in the offing for some time.

“We made a commitment that we would develop this site 18 months ago in a regeneration framework. Our starting point was that the area is a major failure, it’s underwhelming and there’s hardly any reason for people to walk past.

“I do believe the development is appropriate in principle. We always said that to deliver on our ambitions and objectives we need buildings of scale.”

Meanwhile, city centre developers Michael Ingall, chief executive of Allied London, and Morgan Leahy, prominent investor and developer, took to Twitter this morning to criticise the project. Ingall described St Michael’s as “strategically, utterly wrong”, while Leahy said the project was “horrible… completely wrong and huge overdevelopment”. Their comments were backed by HIMOR Group execeutive chairman Will Ainscough who also said he was “saddened” by several PRS projects underway in Manchester.

Manchester City Council is both St Michael’s development partner, and the authority deciding on the planning application, due to be submitted in the coming weeks. When asked if this created a conflict of interest, Bernstein responded: “The planning services are very open, rigorous and robust. The council declared from the start, even before there were investors on board, that this would be an opportunity for tall buildings.

“If we are going to be a sustainable city, we need high density. That doesn’t apply everywhere, but we have checks and balances in place.”

Plans for St Michael’s include a 200-bedroom, five-star hotel, 153 one, two and three-bed apartments and penthouses, 135,000 sq ft of office space and 30,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including two new elevated bars/restaurants, and public realm.

The project is being funded by a £150m consortium deal with Singaporean-based Rowsley and Beijing Construction Engineering Group.

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The opposition to this scheme is unprecedented in recent memory. Key individuals need to speak up and lobby the council executive here. The consultation was so heated. The architects couldn’t defend the scheme because it’s so poor. Pointless change in levels, poor street frontage, lack of reflection of the Grade II* listed buildings, it’s monolithic solid black form. They haven’t explained why it can’t be glass… inkeeping with modern Manchester’s vernacular as required within Planning Policy. Lobby your councillors, speak to the planners. Get Gary to listen! Mancs hate your scheme!

By Listen Up

Say what you really think Morgan Leahy

By Lee

I couldn’t agree more; many a time I have considered walking through that awful failed area and decided against it, because there is simply no reason to go there. Once the huge black, blank windowless facade is built and I can be guaranteed a perpetual absence of sunlight I will finally have a reason to visit.

By Vicky

Once the council’s regen framework is in place (which appears to be drawn up in conjunction with the developer prior to their scheme being made public), planning permission is a formality. Any major changes once the plans become public are deemed unrealistic because the scheme has already been worked up and, surprise surprise, already conforms to the framework. It’s precisely the reason First Street turned out so badly – everything is agreed between the council and the developer when they’re drawing up the framework; “consultation” then becomes a completely token box-ticking exercise and commercial needs end up completely trampling public or cultural factors.

This has been MCC’s model for effectively circumventing the planning system and proper public scrutiny for some time. Bernstein is fooling nobody here. Things absolutely have to change though – we can’t afford another First Street style disaster.

By Cynic

The scheme is being promoted by some ex-footballers – so that makes it OK in the minds of MCC. Great to see they have such a sophisticated approach to securing investment in the city. It really is quite crass and depressing when anything put forward by a footballer is great but any other developer has a monumental struggle in the city. And we are meant to think that Manchester is an “international” city and not a parochial throw back to the 1970’s….

By Developer

Money talks and football money talks loudest maybe|?

By Schwyz

It was only slightly before my time that the buildings in King Street were cleaned of their black soot leaving only the former NatWest HQ in black cladding. Whilst “retro” has its place, black towers in a Northern city with a reputation for rain cannot be right. I thought MCC are trying to move the City forward, not back.

By ChesneyT

Developer & Schwyz are correct. Look at ‘wee Ryan’s’ own track record – purchasing the late author Mary Wibberley’s charming warm and characterful Edwardian villa in Worsley, then utterly razing it to place a vulgar glass and chrome bling -fest slab on the site. Out of keeping with the neighbouring properties? check. not respecting scale mass and footprint of the plot? – check. jarring with the landscape character?- check. Allowed to build it ? Of Course, Salford’s Planning is after all a privatised concern as ‘Urban Vision’ – aka Capita – Ker- Ching!!

By Kicker Conspiracy

Isn’t it also the case that the “steps to nowhere” – ok a café – have been shown to fail already at Premier House, Deansgate with the shops that no-one ever went to. That was only up one storey rather than the 2-3 onto the synagogue roof.

By ChesneyT

I imagine there’ll be a few inter-developer / developer-council fall-outs over certain comments and now deleted tweets! everyone i’ve discussed the scheme with hates it. there’ll be pressure on the planners now.

By Dave

I think other developers, being competitors, somehow feared this magnificent project. I personally like this project. 31 storey is tall ?
You guys have never been to New York, Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai, Dubai ?
Look at the positive aspect of things.
If this is bad architecture, other developers and competitors will be happy to see it flop.
When they criticized it, you know this project have strong merits other developers perhaps felts threatened by it. Think about it.

By VanBasten

So Van Basten what you’re saying is the more complaints there are, the better the scheme is? Who are you – George Orwell? Show me a couple of black monolithic towers in “New York, Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai, Dubai” and I might change my mind. I’m all for tall – in the right place but where’s the Gherkin or Cheesegrater equivalent here? I think foreign visitors will be taking pictures of the Town Hall for years to come rather than the looming “council” flats behind them.

By Chesney T

could sombody,anybody, make gary an offer for the site so he can take his ‘artistic vision’ to media city instead! almost anything must be better than this. the 20th ct society and the victorian society in agreement on the same side! who would ever have imagined that day would come? gary has created some strange bedfellows but its snowballing.nobody wants win some you loose some and the developers need to admit defeat and move on.

By debi manc

TO Listen Up, why are you advocating the building of yet another ‘ANYCITY’ glass tower. Isn’t the City Centre overpopulated with these structures already. These black towers are beautiful in my opinion, especially the tapered roof design of both Towers & subtle design differences between the two which complements them perfectly. The design is unique and will therefore be ICONIC to the city of Manchester. The exterior cladding also appears to be very durable against inclement weather conditions (which cannot be said for most of the numerous white stonewashed residential developments built in the last decade, not to mention the filthy state of ‘Brutalist’ designed white stone clad buildings like the Renaissance Hotel, Albert Bridge House, Peter House etc). I reckon that a similar ‘hoo-har’ was evident in the early 1930’s prior to the construction of the predominantly smoked glass Express Newspaper printing HQ the design of which was considered ugly and weird at the time but has become a much loved iconic building with a Listed status

By Anthony Fallon

Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that this horrendous project is in the wrong place. It will permanently shadow our magnificent town hall. A blot on the landscape for all time. Surely Football money can’t have that much power!!!!

By Andrew Robinson

I do not mind the towers although think their form and materials could be refined a lot. It’s the needless destruction of the Abercromby that irks me as well as the downgrading of the fine streetscape of Southmill Street which, even though it’s not the finest building, the police station contributes to enormously.

They think that pictures of piece of crap, introverted “public realm” which is just a glorified lobby for the residential and hotel tower will appease people – wrong!

By Nevillle Not

Big Mick’s spoken; heed.

By Mizzer

If anybody wants to know precisely how the ‘public realm’ will pan out simply walk along the equivalent one that is part of Pall Mall Court, the units there are/were empty for years. It is windily desolate and ugly. Why do MCC assume that this will be any different?

By Loganberry

Gosh, it’s in Manchester. Looking at the plans, I’d thought it was in Lagos or Guangzhou. If you really want the true measure of this development, take a look at the promotional bumf: genuinely the most empty-headed, soulless drivel ever to have been inflicted on an audience.

By Moomo

Looks fantastic, Manchester taking it up a notch, after all this isn’t Chester.

By Mickey