A selective news round-up for Manchester this last week, 20-26 March
A regular column charting some changes and news in Greater Manchester, highlighting stories that interest us and will hopefully interest you.
Two more huge towers brought forward
Here come two more towering towers of tremendous towery-ness. The latest tall tale in Manchester to come forward is called Park Place, at Great Jackson Street, and comprises identical twins of 56 storeys. They will be 172m (564m), so 3m taller than Beetham Tower’s height. Both of them. Big. There will be 1,037 apartments. Upfront construction and ancillary costs are £350m. Should this scheme be realised, and there is many a slip between cup and lip, then the area between Chester Road, the Mancunian Way and Albion Street will see seven towers within a bowshot of each other stretching way over 120m (400ft). Remarkable. By the way, the design, as it appears in the CGIs, looks elegant and sharp as a pin. Simplicity is a virtue in designing tall.
Manchester architects defining the skyline
In an area dominated by five towers from developer Renaker and Manchester architect SimpsonHaugh, the new towers break the mould. These will be delivered by Great Jackson Street Estates (under the aegis of Salford-based investor Aubrey Weis) and the architects are Manchester's Hodder + Partners. Variety helps in these things.
From a distance, the present cluster is unavoidable in views of the city from miles away. Is anyone aware of such a dominant single group in any other northern European city - certainly one that isn't the capital? And should Park Place be delivered, is anyone aware of such a cluster that would have been designed by two local architectural practices with HQs within half a mile of their lofty schemes?
Brownsfield Mill flies into the Avro Building
Speaking of local architects with a profile that reaches far beyond the North West, here’s a design from Roger Stephenson. This is a conversion of the utterly splendid 1820s Brownsfield Mill. The developer is Urban Splash and they’ve changed the name, but this name change makes sense, which in itself is unusual. The new name is Avro Building. This was the company name of the mighty former aircraft manufacturer Avro which was formed in the building by Alliot Vernon Roe. Another famous link is with the artist LS Lowry who worked at the Pall Mall company here as a rent collector. We have quite enough buildings named after the miserablist thank you. Anyway, this week a show apartment has opened. The final four homes are on sale. If you have the dosh then prices start at £450,000. In-person and virtual tours of Avro are now available.
Let's see the reality of levelling up
Mancunian Lord Jim O’Neill is an internationally renowned economist who coined the term BRIC for the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China - amongst many other claims to fame. He was an architect of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. At a conference this week, he said the Northern Powerhouse required the Conservative government to be serious about their ‘levelling up’ agenda for the North. The government had to particularly concentrate on one area: “It should be about education for the most disadvantaged. I think the way the government feels about it, is [about] trying to make sure the country isn’t just dominated by London and the South East.”
He’s right. Of course. He's a former Tory cabinet minister and is wagging a gentle finger at the government saying fulfil your promises. For Northerners, real evidence will be needed of ‘levelling up’. At present, the Northern Powerhouse feels like empty rhetoric, a placebo not a cure.
The Duchess of Denton and other stories
Jim O’Neill, mentioned in the previous story, has an official title. It's Baron of Gatley. Yes, that Gatley, the deeply sleepy south Manchester suburb (technically Stockport but let's not split hairs). Does anybody else feel the title Baron of Gatley sounds faintly absurd? What about other titles associated with Manchester’s suburbs, can we have a Marquess of Miles Platting? Perhaps Councillor Pat Karney, could be the Count of Collyhurst.
Putting your feet to the flames
The weirdest story comes from the Holiday Inn, Aytoun Street, this week. A fire started and the hotel had to be evacuated. When the Fire Service arrived, the fire was out but a corridor and rooms were filled with smoke which the Fire Service cleared with "positive pressure ventilation fans".
And the reason for the near-disaster? Apparently, a guest had been "warming his feet with a hair-dryer and fallen asleep". Eh? Why hadn’t he just put his feet under the quilt to warm them up? I've worked out the truth. The guest was a drunken hobbit and after washing his hairy feet he’d decided to dry them off but nodded off instead. Bloody hobbits.
Jobs gained and jobs lost
Aer Lingus, Santander and Ofcom were in the Manchester news this week. Aer Lingus is to create 120 jobs up here with their first non-stop flights from the UK to the US and the Caribbean. Fares will cost from £199 and start in summer - if the pandemic go-ahead is green.
Meanwhile, Manchester will lose the large Santander office on Deansgate, along with several other centres across the nation. The bank announced it is looking to re-purpose many of the jobs with "new dual location working arrangements", combining working from home with access to local spaces "designed to enable team collaboration."
Ofcom is to create 150 jobs in Manchester. The communications regulator wants to build on "Manchester's reputation as a centre for technology and innovation". The location of the new office, which opens next year, hasn’t been revealed.