Controversial £200m development has finally been given the go ahead
It's been two years since Confidential was barred from attending a meeting at Town Hall to discuss proposals for St Michael's - the £200m property development fronted by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs and funded by the Beijing Construction Engineering Group and Singapore-based Rowsley.
And my, how much has gone on since then.
There's been wrangling, fall-outs, petitions, hand-wringing, a change of height, a change of colour, a change of architect, a change of tack, a change of design and a change of direction. There's been planned demolitions, cancelled demolitions, two towers, one tower and now a 'lozenge' tower. Heritage groups waded in, the public waded in, councillors waded in, Gary Neville waded in and we waded in - multiple times.
Now, after all the carry on, plans have finally been waved through, as Hodder+Partners' much improved design is given the green light by the Secretary of State James Brokenshire - who this week informed the partnership that their application will not be called in for a public inquiry.
Manchester City Council approved the plans back in March (by six votes to three). However, heritage bodies, including Historic England, continued to protest the scheme. In a statement released early in 2018, HE said they were 'unable to support' the development due to the 'cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings' - namely Manchester Town Hall and the Central Library.
Though as Jonathan Schofield wrote for Confidential in January, what Historic England really seemed to be saying was that while they were not objecting to the proposal, they could not support it either. In other words, 'the decision was thrown back to the city like the proverbial hot potato.'
'Yet this development is not a hot potato, nor a banana skin, nor a red herring, nor any other food metaphor: it is a cracking idea," wrote Schofield, "It is fitting and bold. Sometimes, in the rush to preserve, people forget the heritage of this city, which is not only one of change, like all cities, but also one of expression.'
Following years of uncertainty, Neville is understandably 'excited' (and probably more than a little relieved) about the government's consent.
"We are delighted that the Secretary of State has decided to not call in our revised plans for St Michael’s and that the vision for this landmark mixed-use scheme will be realised," he said in a statement.
“It’s been more than a decade since the idea to regenerate a strategic city centre location was first considered – and our whole team is very pleased that we can focus on delivering this project for Manchester, bringing new high-quality development that will enhance the city’s position both nationally and internationally.”
Giggs added: "I genuinely believe that St Michael’s is a truly brilliant scheme and will add to the quality of buildings currently on offer and improve the most central part of Manchester – a city that I love.
“It’s now about the hard work starting so St Michael’s can be enjoyed by people who both live in and visit our wonderful city.”
So, what has actually been approved?
- a 39-storey (134.5m) tower which is to include a 216-bed five star hotel and 189 high-end apartments.
- an adjoining nine-storey podium building containing 148,000 sq ft of offices and featuring an elevated public square with rooftop bars.
- A boutique hotel in the retained Bootle Street police station frontage.
- Refurbishment of the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub with a new public square in front.
- A new synagogue to replace the demolished Manchester Reform Synagogue on Jackson's Row.
The partnership say the development will contribute more than £80 million in gross value to the local economy and create up to 1,500 jobs (with a further 270 employed throughout the construction phase).
“This development will regenerate a pivotal city block adjacent to the City’s civic core, and I applaud the evident passion, ambition and vision of all those behind St Michael’s. And that’s why I’m delighted that this significant project has been given the go-ahead." - Architect Stephen Hodder MBE.
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council (a partner in the development and owner of the land on Jackson's Row), said: “Investment in Manchester is crucial to support our on-going regeneration and St Michael’s is a case in point for the type of high-quality development that our city centre needs.
"The Jackson’s Row area has been underwhelming and underused for too long and we welcome the decision by the Secretary of State to move this important project in to the next phase.”
Work on St Michael's is expected to begin later this year.