Jonathan Schofield takes a monthly look at property and landscape stories involving Greater Manchester

Art Deco show, here we go

An undoubtedly good thing architecturally for this fine city is the rebirth of an Art Deco giant, the Rylands Building. This was completed in 1932 to designs of a titan of Manchester design, Harry S Fairhurst (Ship Canal House, Arkwright House, Lancaster House and so on). This is heroic architecture sporting racy zig-zag stonework and grand corner towers resembling those at the original Wembley. Take another peek at those towers with their blind arcades at the top cornice level and those classic Mudejar motifs Art Deco loved in the long recesses beneath. Marvellous.

After use as a textile warehouse for Rylands, it was Paulden’s department store from the fifties and then from 1973, Debenhams. Since May 2021 the magnificent Grade II building has lain a dead space, a lush lump of jazzy masonry without a role. By the way, this Rylands Building might be later but the founder of the company was John Rylands for whom the library on Deansgate is named. This company clearly wanted to deliver for Manchester the finest architecture. 

So what next? Well, now we have some visuals from Coburg Street practice Jeffrey Bell Architects. They look magnificent. The developer and bill-payer is German investment company AM Alpha and their intention is for a mixed-use combo of retail on the ground floor, offices and leisure. It is fascinating to see how city centre priorities have changed, the retail area will be 36,700sqft and the wellness space 40,000sqft.

There will be a ‘winter gardens’ on the sixth floor and roof terraces. A standout feature will be the reveal of so many of the Art Deco features lost behind temporary walls and partitions during the Debenham years. The redesign and restoration of the main entrance looks splendid, the whole scheme gives great confidence that a proper job will be done here. All those details from 1932 need to be retained. 

Completion date will be in 2025. 

20230413 Property Roundup Debenhams Entrance
A reworked entrance will complement the original design Image: Jeffrey Bell Architects
20230413 Property Roundup Debenhams Entrance Now
The closed Debenhams entrance: Debenhams, in some ways, vandalised the buildings Image: Confidentials
20230413 Property Roundup Debenhams Proposal
Room at the top with the Rylands proposals Image: Jeffrey Bell Architects
20230412 Property Roundup Debenhams
Rylands Building, CGI image of Market Street Image: Jeffrey Bell Architects
20230413 Property Roundup Debenhams Tower
The glorious Art Deco details will leap to life again Image: Confidentials

Shude it or Shuden’t it?

The city council had thrown out a planning application on Shudehill. The north side of this hugely historical street still retains some interesting older buildings some more than 200 years old. They are generally in a decrepit state. The web address of one of the units www.jobbydealer gives a hint to the material for sale within.   

29 Shudehill from around 1810 is Grade II listed. Developer Interland Holdings want to convert the building, along with the one to its rear, the former Rosenfield store, another 19th century building, into 175 apartments. The architects are Buttress. The good news is that scruffy corner next to the tramlines would disappear. The bad news is that only the façade on Shudehill and Dantzig Street would be retained from the older buildings and a big bulky block including a tall stump of 19 storeys would arrive to crush everything between.

Planning officers state: ‘The development would result in the total loss of all non-listed buildings on the site with the exception of the partial retention of the façade of the Rosenfield Building. There would be partial demolition and alterations to Grade II Listed 29 Shudehill. This would have an unduly harmful impact on visual amenity. The scale, massing, appearance of the proposal would have a harmful impact on the visual amenity and the character of the local area’. 

It's curtains for this proposal. But action needs to be taken at that ragged corner of the modern city. It's a grim location. More proposals will have to be put forward and some of the old structures may have to go. 

20230413 Property Roundup Dantzig Street And Shudehill
The domineering proposals Image: Planning office
20230413 Property Roundup Buttress Shudehill
Isometric fun on Shudehill Image: Planning office
20230413 Property Roundup Shudehill Wasteland
It's a mess at present on Shudehill at this corner, something needs to go there Image: Confidentials

The black Ziggurat of Trinity Way  

Place North West, easily the best property magazine in Manchester, has given details about another Salboy/Domus residential proposal for Trinity Way. This stepped-back building would contain 250 flats and almost 1,000sqft of commercial space. The architects are Salboy’s inhouse Studio Power. The building will be black hence the name of the development, Obsidian.

Studio Power in the planning document write in only the way architects can write: ‘The dark facade materiality and decorative perforated metalwork make reference to the sites strong industrial history being the location of the former Salford Iron Works.’ Honestly, why bother with historical referencing like this when nothing else about the building will remind people of Salford Iron Works and unless they talk to the architects nobody will ever think it has any historical connections because frankly in its shape and name it doesn’t.

I wonder if at any point if there will be a development on an old sewage works where some architect or other will write: ‘The brown façade materiality and yellow metalwork references the sewage works and its strong aromatic presence will mean it not only looks like s*** and p*** but smells like them as well’.

Semantics and carping aside, this is a bold design that might on completion look overbearing or then again, might look powerful and interesting. It’s a big ‘un though at 26 stories, much taller than near neighbours. 

It’s apt Obsidian, perhaps, will sit next to the Audacious Church. Praise the lord, or in this part of Salford praise Simon Ismail and Fred Done, the Salboy bosses and men with a nigh-ubiquitous presence on Trinity Way.

20230412 Property Roundup Obsidian Proposal
A big addition to the Trinity Way streetscene Image: Salboy
20230413 Property Roundup Obsidian From Trinity Way
It's called Obsidian, it's dark Image: Salboy

Bridgewater Way cone killing

These words arrived on a coach with some Bayern Munich fans after a visit to Old Trafford before they skipped across to the Etihad to see their team crushed 3-0. As we turned onto the Bridgewater Way the coach driver cheered. “Hurrah, look!" he exclaimed, "The cones have gone. The traffic is moving. It’s always a bloody nightmare on any United evening game but those cones made it ten times worse. Hurrah.” 

On behalf of I swept a low bow and detailed the campaign we had led to remove the almost two year nightmare after Trafford Council imposed the ‘active travel lanes’ on the main artery from the south-west into the city centre. An 'active travel lane' upon which very few cyclists actively travelled. 

The logical policy to encourage cautious cyclists to get on their bike into town was to put cycle lanes on Talbot Road. This has now happened but too slowly and after too many costly consultations as we know through the FOIA request we pursued. 

The full story is here.

The slider below shows images with the 'active travel lane' and without. Both pictures were taken just before 9am on Bridgewater Way several months apart.  

“Dies ist die sauberste Stadt im Norden Englands”

During the tour with the Germans (see above) we had a little walk from Liverpool Road through Castlefield for coffee at Albert's Shed. 

The woman in the green coat, third from the right in the picture below (taken later in Lincoln Square) said: “My family and I have been travelling round the north of England before the match and we have loved the scenery and the villages and cities. We stayed in Newcastle and Liverpool and I wonder why they are so dirty compared to Manchester, is this city wealthier. Manchester is such a clean place.” 

After I’d picked myself up off the pavement I attempted an explanation. One of the best qualities of bringing overseas tourists to the city or leading tours is that you get to look at the place through their eyes. It takes away cynicism, it's refreshing and reinforcing: 9.9 times out of ten our overseas guests adore this place.

After the coffees at Albert's Shed the Germans had created a new spectator sport: watching a narrowboat go through a British canal lock. I couldn't drag them away. 

20230413 Property Roundup German Guests
Bavarian guests in the sunshine at Lincoln Square Image: Jonathan Schofield
20230413 Property Roundup Germans Gawping At Locks
That dear Bayern-folk is a boat going through a lock but enjoy it as you will soon lose 3-0 Image: Jonathan Schofield

Elevating answers from Hodder

Quick message to Stephen Hodder of Hodder + Partners last week. “Morning Stephen. Is the St Michael’s development service tower very big and very wide or is that me showing my ignorance?” “Hi, Jonathan” came the reply. “It is rather large isn’t it! It is because it contains 11 lifts (6 for offices, 2 service lifts and 3 for the rooftop restaurant) together with 2 staircases.” 

Wow, three lifts for the restaurant. This seems about right and seems a lesson learned from some other rooftop restaurants across the region. 

As a reminder, the restaurant operator will be Chotto Matte and offer a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines across a hefty 20,000sqft. That will open in 2024. The developers are Gary Neville’s Relentless company and American investment giant KKR. 

20230413 Property Roundup Service Tower St Micheals
The large service tower of St Michael's, 11 lifts' worth Image: Confidentials
202304 Chotto Matte St Michaels P Rdpr
Chotto Matte restaurant as it should look Image: RDPR

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield

Read next: Victoria Baths unveil restored Gala pool doors

Read again: Spectacular drone image of Salford and Manchester: 2023 v 1859

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