Gary Neville said he wanted to deliver a development “with ambition, which polarises opinion”, and despite the revised designs unveiled at a public consultation today, St Michael’s continues to do just that.
The earlier version of the project, for the 1.5-acre site at Bootle Street and Jackson’s Row, was a mixed-use scheme dominated by two dark-clad towers of 21 and 31 storeys, designed by Make Architects. The scheme came under fire due to the height of the project near to Albert Square, the decision to demolish all buildings on the site, and a lack of permeability at street level.
In the last couple of months, Make has been replaced by Hodder + Partners, initially brought in by joint venture partner Manchester City Council as an independent advisor to give a local perspective to the controversial plans. A radical reworking of the scheme has now been announced, reducing the development to one tower at the west of the site, and keeping the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and Bootle Street police station façade, the loss of which had been particularly contentious.
However, opinions on St Michael’s from property industry professionals and local residents remain mixed.
Place North West readers described the scheme as “a significant improvement” and “a fair compromise”, while others have bemoaned the loss of the previous project, calling it “bolder and better”, with the new glazed tower dismissed as “a low budget Beetham”.
At the launch of the public consultation, which started at 11am today and lasts until 7pm at Manchester Central Library, the overall impression from early attendees was one of cautious optimism.
Retiree Keith said he thought the previous scheme was “arrogant” and he was “impressed by the amount that the developers have listened, and I approve of this version.”
Local photographer Christine said that the designs were an improvement on the “ugly” earlier iteration, although still questioned why a building that tall should be in such a central location.
Lesley Chalmers, former chief executive of English Cities Fund, who lives near the development area and has campaigned against the proposals, said the plans were “much better” but “there’s still work to be done”.
“The scheme had to start from a different philosophy,” she told Place. “This version is not just a tinkering, which is good. They’re keeping the heritage, which is important, and delivering the public space in a more logical way.
“However, I’m still worried about the big block on a strategic level. The council has an ad hoc approach to buildings of height, and this could set a significant precedent.”
Reactions on Twitter were divided.
Good news, the original plans were vulgar. Interesting to see just how “public” roof gardens will be. City has hardly any public spaces.
— Simon Webbon (@abstractgroove) July 12, 2017
Revised St. Michael’s plan are sadly a step back. Really messy street level design and bland, forgettable tower. Meh https://t.co/o3yRulOdDs
— Keith Andrew (@tweeting_keith) July 12, 2017
The Sir Ralph Abercromby pub was understandably joyous:
Thank you for your support.
Long live the Ralph !!!
I’m Still Standing
YEAH YEAH YEAH https://t.co/Kz5EL9Ky3w
— Sir Ralph Abercromby (@AbercrombyMcr) July 12, 2017