Ten years ago, I watched with wide-eyed adolescent enthusiasm as Manchester’s cityscape transformed. Excitement and optimism were in the air, jostling for space amongst the cranes which littered the city’s skyline at the time, writes Ed Howe.
When the economy collapsed, the property scene dried up and for a while, so too did my interest. But while my attention was side-tracked, Manchester was busy transforming itself with public investment instead; preparing itself for the next economic boom. The Metrolink expansion, MediaCityUK and the Northern Hub project kept the city’s construction workers busy but these weren’t just vanity projects or apartment buildings as had come before. These were seeds which would ensure that a strengthened Manchester could fly off the starting block the moment the economy recovered.
Howe is author of the Manchester Development Update – click here for August 2017 edition
So, when the clouds lifted once again in about 2012, that’s exactly what happened. A flurry of proposals ensured that this city powered ahead. It’s also when I started paying attention to property and urban regeneration again, charting the economic boom and collecting statistics on Manchester’s revival. In many ways the boom we’re currently seeing is bigger, more optimistic and more far-reaching than the last one. Our skyscrapers are taller, the benefits are more widespread and the investment is better directed. In 2007, the tallest building proposed for Manchester was Eastgate tower, at 188m. We’ve now smashed that with two proposals taller than 200m, one of which is actually under construction at Owen Street.
As well as the taller buildings it feels as though this time round the city has more substance. We have better city governance which now encompasses all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs; a tram network befitting a city of Manchester’s size, and a Mayor to act as our spokesperson. Manchester is a much more grown-up, more ambitious city than it was just 10 years ago. The public stir caused around the St Michael’s proposals demonstrate this perfectly. This is now a city whose people share a vested interest in ensuring that it thrives and prospers; a city of Mancunians who demand high quality development. Only the best for Manchester.
I’ve been collecting statistics on Manchester’s development and regeneration since 2012. Back then, there were just 275 apartments under construction across the entire city, including central Salford and Salford Quays. Now, just five years later, there are nearly 12,000 homes under construction, and a further 19,700 in planning. According to the latest population figures in 2016, Manchester had 20,800 people, a big jump from the 11,600 recorded in 2007. By 2021, the population of Manchester city centre is likely to exceed 50,000, and we’ll see similar rises in central Salford, Hulme and Salford Quays, too. All of this will enable the population of Greater Manchester to hit three million by the mid-2020s; which will represent a rise of 600,000 people since 2007.
Unlike in 2007, in 2017 we’re able to track, chart and map every single change occurring in this city and allow people to engage with it like never before. The number of apartments underway; the amount of office space and hotel beds planned and under construction are all recorded, and my interactive map demonstrates the spatial distribution of all the city’s schemes and proposals.
As we go forward into the next 10 years, it’s important that we continue to fund our infrastructure, electrify our railways and redevelop our transport hubs. Keep demanding the best for our city, and ensure that the property boom is felt by all Mancunians. Demanding the best for our city extends beyond our borders; assuring that Manchester and a more united North of England have a much stronger voice in Westminster. The recent cancellation of the electrification programme shows how Westminster sentiment towards the North of England has not changed as much as we’d originally hoped under Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse. Most importantly, I believe, we need to unite with our neighbours in Lancashire, Liverpool, Cheshire and Yorkshire to produce strong and robust business cases for vital Northern infrastructure projects which would totally transform our city and our region.
- To take part in the Place10 series reflecting on the decade since Place North West was first published in August 2007, send your stories and memories to firstname.lastname@example.org headed ‘10’.