What has piqued my interest this year has been the emergence of town centre masterplans and visions, matched with clear articulation of the ambitions for places such as Bolton, Rochdale and Stockport, says Lisa Kinch of Farrells.
Some of these ambitions are already coming to fruition with the recent announcement of the joint venture between Midia and BCEGI for Bolton, and Altrincham was recently crowned England’s best high street at the Great British High Street awards. There is a strong positive momentum and ‘can-do’ attitude building around our regional towns, bolstering the continued development of Manchester city centre.
Over the course of next year, I hope to see more opportunities opening up, supported by the Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge programme. As architects and masterplanners it is challenging but ultimately very rewarding to work on bringing new life and energy into a place. It is important that we engage and collaborate with the local communities and businesses in our regional towns to make sure any proposed developments respond to and celebrate their unique circumstances and identities.
All this is not to say the pace of development in Manchester city centre is showing any signs of slowing down. It is fascinating to see the skyline evolving – changing almost on a daily basis – and next year we can look forward to seeing some of those cranes replaced by completed buildings.
I expect there will be a lot of progress made around Piccadilly Station as U+I progress their Mayfield plans, Capital & Centric and Henry Boot’s Kampus continues to grow and London Road Fire Station gathers pace. The University of Manchester is looking to secure a partner for their North Campus site, promising to further extend the hive of development activity in the area. At the other end of the city, St John’s is progressing, and Manchester’s first true skyscraper has emerged in the cluster of towers taking shape at Great Jackson Street.
At Farrells, we are working closely with Manchester City Council and the Far East Consortium, putting the final touches on the Northern Gateway Strategic Regeneration Framework before it goes to the council’s executive for approval. The Northern Gateway is a remarkable site full of potential and we look forward to seeing the vision take shape over the next 15-20 years. The proposed plans include the creation of a new park landscape along the River Irk and 15,000 homes for Manchester’s ever-growing population.
I am very lucky to teach part time at Manchester School of Architecture, where we have students from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of them are currently investigating potential spatial implications of Brexit along the Irish border; a project in flux, responding to rapidly developing political circumstances. To some, this project is more personal than others with ongoing uncertainties around visas, education and future jobs. As an industry, we must not forget to support and embrace the diversity, enthusiasm and experience of the future generation – they are, after all, the ones who will deliver (and hopefully improve upon) the visions we create today.