Rochdale Town Hall progresses, racecourse building first past the post and more architects arrive

It's a 2021 hello to a horsey refurbishment, two architectural practices, a contractor with an important job, and another Deansgate consultation.  

Here's our round-up of this week's property stories:

Gee up for Sporting classic

Most of the former Manchester Racecourse at Castle Irwell is the glorious Kersal Wetlands nature reserve. The western end of the site is now to become a handsome development of 500 homes by Salboy. There is one survivor from the old days, namely the Turnstile building through which, on busy meetings, 50,000 people would stream. Derelict for years, it has now been fully repaired and restored by Domis Construction (the contracting arm of Salboy). 

Domis Director, Kingsley Thornton, said: “The Turnstile building was in a state of disrepair when we started work, with parts of the roof missing or damaged and the brickwork in a poor state. We stripped the building out, exposed and repaired the amazing oak roof trusses. We re-used the original roof tiles, cleaned and treated the brick and glazed the arched turnstile openings.” The building will be a showroom and offices for now and will be available for a variety of uses subsequently.

2021 01 07 Turnstile 1
The Turnstile building through which thousands would stream on busy race days
2021 01 07 Turnstile 3
The refurbished interior

Traffic-free Deansgate - once more with feeling

Another consultancy is out on Deansgate. The summer closure in 2020 of a tiny stretch between Blackfriars Street and King Street West had to be abandoned late in the year as a bus operator complained over its legality. That closure is to be pursued again in 2021 - but extended. This would entail the closure of the northbound carriageway down to Quay Street with only southbound motor traffic permitted. There’s a consultation out on this but responses have to be in by 25 January.

Manchester City Council says this will improve air quality and facilitate pedestrian and cycle use. Also, Gartside Street parallel to Deansgate will become northbound only for traffic - except cycles. Vehicles will be able to subsequently turn east on Bridge Street but west into Salford will be for buses only with a bus gate. All vehicles can arrive in the city centre from Salford, however. Meanwhile, St Mary’s Parsonage will remain closed at the northern end. 

Confused? Yep, so are we, so here’s a map which makes it clearer. This is from the document sent to local residents which is more useful than the map on the council website. 

2021 01 07 Deansgate Consultation Plan
The big idea from the document sent to residents

Deansgate – just get it all done 

These small incremental changes on Deansgate seem like death by a thousand cuts, a bit like the government’s will-we won’t-we game of lockdowns and tiers. As we wrote in May 2020, if this is the direction of travel let’s apply the ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ argument and close the whole of Deansgate from Liverpool Road all the way past House of Fraser, connecting it with the Victoria Street pedestrianisation in front of Manchester Cathedral. That’s a distance of 1.22km and would give the scheme critical mass, turning Deansgate into a long promenade. 

Indeed it’s a moot point whether a longer closure would cause any more congestion in the city than this mealy-mouthed one - especially if traffic were still allowed to cross Deansgate at Peter Street, John Dalton Street and Blackfriars.’ 

We still stand by that.

2020 05 19 St Marys And Deansgate
The Deansgate closure in summer 2020

Architects show Will Ing 

The Architects' Journal has reported how two new architectural practices are setting up in Manchester despite the avalanche of horror for the economy that is Covid-19. Weston Williamson from London has set up in St Peter’s Square and TODD from Belfast has secured offices in Deansgate. 

Rob Naybour of the former is reported as saying: "Property prices, cost of living and commuting times are not great in the South East. It’s a challenge for young, salaried architects. Quality of life can increase in the North." 

The article also states that directors can expect ‘£20k less salary’ than in The Smoke. What North/South divide? 

By the way, the journalist who wrote the piece for the Architects' Journal is Will Ing. That’s our current favourite byline anywhere. 

2021 01 07 Todd Architects
An example of TODD work from Omagh

The Nerf of it

Place North West are reporting that the region looks set to gain a huge new shoot-'em-up laser attraction. This will be delivered by Nerf at Barton Square in the Trafford Centre, aka Greater Manchester’s new Belle Vue without the Zoo. 

Under the proposal, 25,000 sq ft would become the Nerf Action Xperience - a laser combat entertainment venue. Yes, Xperience without an 'e'. Apparently, that makes it sound more exciting. The initiative comes via US games company Hasbro and Salford’s Rocafella Leisure Group in a joint scheme. The first site opened in Singapore in 2019. This would be the second. It all seems perfect for these dark Covid days. If somebody gets within two metres, you shoot them. 

2021 01 07 Nerf Xperience
Barton Square awaits a new tenant, the Nerf Action Xperience - the image shows part of the Singapore operation

Good civic awareness - the Hidden Gem becomes less hidden

Jon Matthews Architects (JMA) gets our Civic Awareness Award of the Week for the cut-back of its still-to-complete Lincoln building in Lincoln Square. This reveals St Mary's RC Church, aka 'The Hidden Gem'. Previously, the church could only be viewed from very close, almost with one's nose pressed against it; there was no perspective at all. Now Weightman & Hadfield's design, finished in 1848, gets more exposure. 

The nickname might have to change but the church is all the better for a bit of space. Opening out views in Manchester city centre is difficult, JMA has done well here. 

2021 01 07 Hidden Gem
St Mary's comes out of hiding

Rochdale Town Hall contractor announced 

In 2023, Rochdale’s famous Town Hall (main picture above) should reopen as a national treasure, all polished up and refurbed. After the announcement of lottery funding in October, a local contractor has now been tasked with part one of the restoration. HH Smith of Whitefield will spend the next six months clearing out, fixing dodgy electrics, drainage and the like while also removing seedy intrusions from the late 20th century such as MDF partitions. Once HH Smith has finished, conservation specialists will take over to return to full glory the elaborate details and decoration within the building - including the Magna Carta mural.

2021 01 07 Rochdale Town Hall
Rochdale Town Hall in all its glory

Who’d have thought? Lyme Park inspiration

Not news as such, but this little snippet shows the benefit of TV noodling during lockdown. One programme revealed something about Lyme Hall in Lyme Park, a place familiar to tens of thousands in Greater Manchester. The magnificent house was designed in several stages across a couple of centuries by various architects. The grand main façade to the south was designed by Italian architect Giacomo Leoni and dates from the 1720s. Down south, Buckingham Palace gained a new façade in 1850 that looked a lot like a railway station. It proved unpopular so during WWI another main façade arrived, the one we are familiar with today. This was designed by Sir Aston Webb who based the new look explicitly on Lyme Hall in Lyme Park. Northern inspiration. 

2021 07 01 Lyme Park
Lyme Park, a regal model
2021 07 01 Buckingham Palace Present Facade
Buck Palace, the copycat facade
2021 07 01 Buckingham Palace Old Facade
Old ugly Buck Palace

Read next: Meet the women taking on Manchester City Council - this Friday

More on Salford: Local lockdown walks - The river that isn't a river