Jonathan Schofield takes a long view of Great Jackson Street's rise and rise

Nowhere in the UK has ever seen a skyline move so fast. If you’d walked on the moors above Manchester just a few years ago you’d have seen those crusty old stalwarts of the CIS tower, City Tower and the Arndale offices shimmering in the distance. In 2006 these were joined by that Johnny-come-lately, Beetham Tower. Given this was so much further to the south it gave the city an oddly gap-toothed profile. 

The cluster of towers is going thicken substantially over the next four or five years

Then: bang! You gaze at the city skyline in 2021 from up there and it’s a bustle of clusters especially at the southern end of the city centre - the  Great Jackson Street district with Deansgate Square. That cluster is going to thicken substantially over the next four or five years. We’re talking six new big ones, all around 50 storeys or 150 or so metres tall (500ft). Beetham Tower is 169m (554ft). 

The View From Outwood Near Whitefield Of The City Centre
The view in 2021 from on high, north of city centre Manchester. Image: Confidentials

Six new Manchester skyscrapers

Four are inevitably from Renaker, the skyscraper specialist developer. Two of the towers will include 988, one, two and three-bedroom, apartments designed, inevitably again, by SimpsonHaugh Architects.

These will sit very close, maybe a bit too close, to the existing four Renaker towers designed by SimpsonHaugh at Deansgate Square. These will be a different design however, not catching the light through a cunning crease down the middle but through chamfered edges. The images of the buildings look a little like someone’s been whittling away at a square post. Both these towers are 51 storeys high. 

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Proposed new Renaker towers with shaved edges at Great Jackson Street. Image: Renaker

Close to the Mancunian Way just three hundred metres away there will be two more towers, this time 52 storeys high, and these are under construction. Guess what - they are from Renaker and designed by SimpsonHaugh Architects. This pair will have 890 flats and include, as above, one, two or three-bedroom apartments. 

The designs are different again from the others on the scheme, one being described as a "blade" and the other as a "circle". These should be finished by 2025. The circle building (main picture and below) is being marketed as Three60. Estate agent Select Property have re-invented grammar by calling it Manchester's “most unique” building.

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Three60 and 'blade' companion, Manchester, in a cgi with existing Elizabeth Tower. Image: SimpsonHaugh

Manchester's first 'cylindrical skyscraper'

Select Property also states Three60 is Manchester’s first “cylindrical skyscraper”. Hotel Indigo at Victoria Station and the Green Building close to Oxford Road Station might have something to say about that and if Mike Ingall at Allied London gets his way there’ll also be a circular building called Air Concept on Quay Street. This will be based on the idea of a round boardroom table. Yes, really. 

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Air Concept at Quay Street: Allied London letting their imagination run free. Image: Allied London

Between the two new sets of Renaker Towers there are going to be two more big fellas. These are called Park Place, 1,037 apartments across two 56-storey towers. Great Jackson Street Estates, under the control of Salford investor Aubrey Weis, is the developer and the architects are Hodder+Partners. 

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The proposed Park Place from Great Jackson Street Estates. Image: Great Jackson Street Estates

This is the Park Place

The name Park Place hints at other projects in the area. There will be a small new city centre park and a new 250 pupil primary school with planning permission granted. A new car park will follow the continental model and be placed beneath the public park.

The city centre in particular needs a primary school to encourage couples to stay central rather than move to the ‘burbs when they have kids. The school is a joint project from Renaker and Manchester City Council. The MEN were very excited about one aspect of the project. They wrote: “Plans have been unveiled for a new city centre primary school in between two skyscrapers and the Mancunian Way - with its playing fields on the ROOF.” YES, IN CAPITAL LETTERS, THE ROOF.

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The park and school plan at Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Image: SimpsonHaugh

Rooftop playgrounds are nothing new

This is a case of back to the future. A lot of late Victorian and Edwardian schools had their playgrounds on the roof. The presently under refurbishment Great John Street hotel close to St John’s Gardens was built as a school with a rooftop playground. It then became a cocktail terrace for the hotel. Maybe that’s something the Great Jackson Street school governors can look into for parents’ evenings.  

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The rooftop playground was concerted into a cocktail bar at the Great John Street Hotel, Manchester. Image: Great John Street Hotel
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The Great Jackson Street cluster could be home, eventually, to 20,000 people. Image: Great Jackson Street masterplan

The six towers and the school might not be the end of it either at Great Jackson Street. The master plan for the area includes other buildings. In the end, this smallish area of land between Chester Road, Medlock Street and the Mancunian Way may be home to 20,000 people. That's 25% more than the population of Chorlton and almost 3,000 more than that of Ramsbottom. 

The view from the moors is going to see a lot more activity in the not too distant future.

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @jonathschofield

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