A selective news round-up for Manchester this last week, 27 March-2 April
A regular column charting some changes and news in Greater Manchester, highlighting stories that interest us and will hopefully interest you.
Renaissance Hotel site to have a new…er…renaissance
A joint venture between Starwood Capital and the Property Alliance Group will see a key site in the city centre refurbished. The lump of concrete that was the Renaissance Hotel is to be reshaped and remoulded but much of it will stay as the big-boned basis for a new development. Greenery will be added. The side on Deansgate looks like it will resemble the Ivy in Spinningfields. It looks ok, better by a mile than the stained rubbish we currently have. The architects are Jon Matthews Architects.
But just a minute…
The scheme will host an ‘upscale’ hotel but also office space which is exactly what the original 1972 building from Cruikshank and Seward was built as until its conversion into a hotel. Yet there’s something troubling on the CGI here. What is that very tall shadowy thing at the rear of the development at the junction of Deansgate and Victoria Bridge? If that is supposed to be the bit hosting a suggested 290 apartment block then it will have to be at least, what, 75m (250ft), tall? That can’t happen surely, it would be just a few metres from Manchester Cathedral tower and would destroy so many sightlines. Please, dear Manchester planning, let us be careful of the assets we have and take every opportunity to show them off to advantage rather than obscuring them.
Stevenson Square: what should it look like?
The £13.4m Northern Quarter walking and cycling scheme is underway and the city council wants us to voice our opinions over the future of Stevenson Square. So what "types of features and events, public art, planted areas, outside café culture and dining, themed markets and live music" might be good? Given the square’s near-complete closure in pandemic times most people seem to favour the whole place being pedestrianised. The council wants to balance this with all road-users. Something’s got to give. By the way, the Northern Quarter walking and cycling scheme aims to create a continuous walking and cycling route between Victoria and Piccadilly stations. Work is progressing at locations including Thomas Street, Dale Street and Ducie Street.
Coffee, shirts and a terrace
We call this the Square with No Name and strolling it on Wednesday we found that Crazy Pedro's had gained a neighbour. Frank Rostron, the shirt-maker, has moved in after vacating its long-established Princess Street location over the road from the Town Hall. Shirts will still be produced in the company’s own workshop, this time in the basement of the property in the Square with No Name. In a novel turn up, you can now stitch together some coffee and snacks while perusing the smart togs. There’ll be an on-site coffee shop and bar and there’ll also be a terrace outside to linger longer as well. Speaking of smart clothes, the Crazy Pedro's site next door used to be Edwardia, the bespoke clothing shop owned by footballers George Best and Mike Summerbee way back in the swinging sixties. There appears to a tradition for fine clothes in this area.
Deansgate Square to open to the public with General Store
General Store, the Ancoats operator, will open at Deansgate Square this summer. It will be located in a new open space next to the River Medlock. It will be a 4,500 sq ft space with the familiar components of a grocery shop, coffee shop and bar. It will be open to all, not just the 3,000 residents of the towers in the complex. This is very welcome and will make the towers more accessible and welcoming. It’ll be good to add another waterside square to Manchester as well. We’ve got lots already but the more the merrier.
The bowl overflows
The sun shone, the lockdown eased and the safety valve blew. On Monday evening for instance there were several hundred young people sat in the Castlefield Bowl, drink flowed and entertainment was delivered by a lad doing cartwheels and somersaults and climbing everything and anything that looked like it might imperil his life. Some other young people were skipping over the battlements of the reconstructed Roman fort. Then on Wednesday, it all got out of hand and the police had to step in following a DJ turning up with a full rig. The party was over.
Litter, litter everywhere
Across Castlefield and elsewhere this week, as the sun shone and people felt a limited return of freedom, mounds of rubbish accumulated. Most people were diligently stacking their trash next to bins but where were the Biffa trucks? It’s fine and grand for the street cleaners to be out early in the morning but why aren’t they on hand during the time when the litterers are littering? Talking to one council official they felt people should take litter away with them. Well, yes, they should, but they don't. Not brought up very well clearly. But there's no point tutting and wagging a finger if there's a problem which has to be addressed, Manchester's litter collection contracts need looking at again.
Central Library spending £100k on childish pursuits
Central Library is a real success story since refurbishment. Before the bloody pandemic, it had become the busiest library in the UK with more than 1.5m visitors every year. Way back in the nineteenth century, the old library building on Deansgate that now houses the Cervantes Institute and Dimitris became the first civic library to have a children’s department. It's fitting then, that Manchester City Council is set to invest around £100,000 in a refurbishment for the children's library based at Central Library. It sounds very jolly with features such as portholes, allowing children to climb through different sections. We live in a digital age but a huge part of a children's education is reading and learning to enjoy reading. Good news, this.