Make Architects withdraw from £200m scheme as support for St Michael’s wanes

Three months after footballer-turned-property developer Gary Neville admitted that his development consortium had ‘failed miserably’ on parts of the controversial St Michael’s scheme, and now the project’s architects, Make, have pulled out. 

In a statement, Make’s founder Ken Shuttleworth said: ‘We’ve been totally committed to the evolution of the scheme and have continued to work on revised proposals, but we feel that the current direction does not align with our ambition for the site and it is right to step aside.

‘St Michael’s is an important project for Manchester and we wish Gary Neville and his team every success in bringing it to fruition.’

Make’s withdrawal follows the appointment by Manchester City Council – a development partner in St Michael’s - of former RIBA president, Stephen Hodder.

In April, the council drafted in the Manchester-based Hodder + Partners chief to carry out an independent review of the £200m plans for St Michael's following a volley of criticism (not least from this magazine, which lead to our removal from a consultation last July).

So where do Neville and co. go from here? With no architect, the planning application postponed and support from the council seemingly wavering...

Petitions to block the development – which includes two burly towers of 31 and 21 storeys and demolition of three historically significant buildings - gathered almost 10,000 signatures, whilst heritage groups including Historic England, The C20 Society, Save Britain’s Heritage and Victorian Society all waded in on the scheme.

The council's move to appoint Hodder, however, was said to be an unpopular one with Shuttleworth. As one commentator said at the time: ‘an architect brought in to review another architect’s work… that’s bound to go down well.’

Even support from the council – which stands to make a huge profit from the scheme (it owns much of the plot alongside GMP) – appeared to wane in March when Howard Bernstein, former Manchester City Council chief executive and one of the main proponents of the scheme, admitted in interview that ‘the jury is still out (on St Michael's)'.

So where do Neville and co. go from here? With no architect, the planning application postponed and support from the council seemingly wavering, isn't it time to hold their hands up, bin this failed scheme and get back to the drawing board?

St Michaels Steps
Postponed plans include a five star hotel, luxury apartments, high-end offices and a multi-level retail and leisure plaza

Statement from the St Michael's partnership:

'The partnership behind the scheme for the St. Michael’s development in Manchester confirms that Make Architects is no longer the project architect.

'The partnership confirms that it has appointed to the role Manchester-based Hodder and Partners, winner of the inaugural RIBA Stirling Prize in 1996.

'Stephen Hodder and his team were brought in three months ago to contribute design ideas.

'They are now focussed on submitting revised proposals for a successful mixed-use development at St. Michael’s.

'In light of the overall response to the first proposal, it was clear that a different design approach was required. 

'We reflected whether the original solution met the overall objectives for the site and Stephen Hodder was brought in as part of that challenge process. This led to an extensive review of the approach.

'Stephen Hodder’s involvement led us to a different philosophy which we believe will command a greater level of support and create a fantastic new development and destination in the city.

'The partnership thanks Make and in particular, Stuart Fraser and his colleagues for their work and wishes the practice well in the future.'

Sir Ralph Abercromby 1
Plans also include the controversial demolition of the Ralph Abercromby pub, as well as Bootle Street Police Station and a nearby synagogue