St Michael’s plans overhauled
The St Michael’s Partnership has revealed significant changes to its proposals for the mixed-use redevelopment of Jackson’s Row, including retaining the Abercromby pub and the façade of Bootle Street Police Station, and reducing the scheme from two down to one tower.
The revised proposals will be on show at Manchester Central Library later this morning. Key changes are:
- retaining the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub “in recognition of its emotional importance”
- retaining the former Bootle Street Police Station frontage
- a single tower, rather than the twin towers envisaged in the original proposal; now located on the western edge of the site away from the Town Hall
- the tower is 134.5m high, two metres lower than the highest point of the previous 31-storey scheme, and rotated by 90 degrees to be slimmer and less obtrusive when viewed from St Ann’s Square, and is no longer visible from St Peter’s Square
- the tower has greater transparency than the original design due to more glazing and a lighter coloured exterior
The partnership is made up of directors and ex-footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, Manchester City Council, developer Brendan Flood, Singaporean funder Rowsley, and Beijing Construction Engineering Group. Zerum is planning advisor.
The previous scheme centred around 21 and 31 storey towers, made up of a mix of flats, hotel and offices, and drew fierce criticism due to plans to demolish all existing buildings on site, as well as the height so close to historic civic buildings. The cladding colour, lack of active frontages at street level, and difficult access to raised public realm also attracted objections.
Historic England described the earlier iteration of the project as “aggressive” and set to “cause substantial harm”.
Ken Shuttleworth’s Make was architect on the scheme, until Stephen Hodder was appointed as independent advisor in March, taking over as lead architect last month.
Hodder said he had “started with a clean sheet of paper” and conducted “a bottom-up analysis of the site” which led him to the conclusion that the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub, and the Portland Stone façade of the Police Station should be retained, and the highest point of the building shifted away from Albert Square towards Deansgate.
In place of the 21-storey block, which had been given to office use, a nine-storey building with larger, 15,000 sq ft floorplates, is being proposed. A replacement for the synagogue is still included, at the base of the tower.
The altered plans will still be considered by Manchester City Council as part of the application submitted earlier this year. However, Hodder and Neville were quick to point out at a press briefing that the redesign was still emerging, and detailed proposals would be the subject of another consultation in August before any resubmission. The partnership is hoping for consideration at a planning committee in November.
The revised tower will contain apartments, the exact number yet to be confirmed, and the hotel. The building would sit on a podium, connected via steps to the roof of the office, to deliver outdoor space which would be operated by a bar or other venue.
The new scheme incorporates more ground floor retail units, expected to be taken up by food and drink operators. According to Hodder “90% of the perimeter is now activated”.
While Neville defended the earlier scheme as reflecting his ambition “to reach for the stars, and create something internationally unique”, he said, “It was important that we got it right and while we believed in the original scheme, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on how we deliver the best possible proposal which balances generating the maximum economic benefits for the city and job creation, and our architectural ambition, with heritage and conservation.
“We did not shy away from the passionate debate around the original proposals but instead embraced it in a positive spirit and addressed some of the issues raised head-on.
“At the same time, we have kept faith with our central vision of creating a true mixed-use destination with a signature development of the highest quality including residential living, Grade A offices, a five-star hotel, exciting retail and leisure units and world-class outdoor spaces.
“The confidence of investors and occupiers has been retained throughout this process and, subject to planning approval, we will be on site by spring or early summer 2018.”
Historic England has been presented with the amended plans, and described the work as “positive progress”.
Catherine Dewar, planning director in the North West for Historic England, said: “We strongly believe that this extraordinary area of Manchester deserves a thoughtful scheme which responds to its surroundings, contributes to the neighbouring streets and welcomes people in. The new proposals are much closer to achieving this and have the potential to enhance the character of the Deansgate/Peter Street conservation area, rather than dominate it, as the previous scheme threatened.
“We are happy to see that the front building of the former police headquarters complex will now be kept and that the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub will be incorporated into the development because although they aren’t listed, these buildings have soul and tell important stories about our city’s past.
“We also welcome the fact that there is now only one tower in the scheme which has been moved to a different part of the site, further away from the Town Hall, and twisted around. This change means it has much less of an impact on the grand civic buildings here, including the nationally-important grade two-listed Central Library, grade one-listed Town Hall, and grade one-listed St Ann’s Church.”
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