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MANCHESTER IS CHANGING, changing and changing all the time - and not all for the better. Let's go for a walk around the city centre and see what's happening in late August 2000, and anything else that's interesting along the way...

NATIONAL BUILDINGS, PARSONAGE GARDENS, were the offices of National Vulcan, until their merger with Royal Sun Alliance in 1997.

The building, constructed in 1905, was sold, along with the 1960's extension, for conversion into luxury apartments. In late August 2000, the apartments, priced at 110,000 to 1,000,000 are nearing completion.

It will be nice to see people living in the city centre, but most city centre apartments are beyond the reach of nearly all residents of the Manchester conurbation, which has some of the worst areas of poverty in the UK. The Labour-dominated local authority appears to have left the city centre property market open to private speculators and hasn't promoted the idea of a mix of social and privately owned housing. Isn't this an abandonment of Labour's core principles?

The city centre will become the exclusive preserve of highly-paid "DINKY"s - 'double income no kids yet' - that's unless the over-supply of high priced apartments leads to a crash in the city centre residential property market - a distinct possibility in my opinion.

VICTORIA STATION Victoria Station as we see it today is the result of redevelopment carried out in the 1990's. The Nynex Arena, renamed the Manchester Evening News Arena, was built above the north west side of the station.

Here we see the platform which was once the longest in Europe, running from Victoria through to Exchange Station. When Exchange Station was closed in 1969, the part of the platform in that station disappeared. The footbridge just visible in the distance, is one of the few remnants of a once busy station.

In this picture we see one of the diesel powered twin unit trains which run on many local routes. Little more than a bus on wheels, with their poor standard of design and uncomfortable seats, they have for many years been a compelling reason for people not to use the railway. Trams will replace these railcars when lines to Oldham and Rochdale are converted for use by Metrolink.

EXCHANGE SQUARE is named after the Corn Exchange and is a creation of the post-IRA bomb redevelopment of the city centre.

This area used to be a busy road junction, used by buses and other traffic. Now it's a pedestrian precinct remodelled Millennium style in a design by American urban landscape designer Martha Schwarz. Part of her design was the water feature with stepping stones. It's a recreation of the river which flowed through medieval Manchester, giving the street name "Hanging Ditch".

Workmen are maintaining the feature, cleaning the filters clogged with rubbish and bits of chewing gum - City centre water features are often costly for local authorities to maintain, and can start to collect rubbish.

On the left is the Corn Exchange, and straight ahead, the Printworks. Both these buildings have been converted to new uses.

THE CLOCK on the roof of the Printworks, so named because of its former use as newspaper offices, is seen here in close-up.

In the background is the CIS tower, built 1962.

The Printworks looks like it is going to be an exciting and popular attraction - there will be a multiplex cinema with Manchester's first Imax screen, as well as restaurants, night clubs and shops. I like the way the developers have incorporated the building's former use into its new identity.

THE HARD ROCK CAFE is one of the most famous names in showbiz eateries. A new restaurant will be opened in Manchester in the Printworks complex.

In late August 2000, a giant neon guitar sign mounted on the Printworks facade was switched on, providing advance publicity for the restaurant. It's nice to see neon signs returning to Manchester, and I hope to see more.

There's no more powerful symbol of an exciting nighttime city than neon signs, as visitors to New York, Hong Kong and Piccadilly Circus London, will testify.

THE CORN EXCHANGE was opened in 1905, on a triangular site which was once at the heart of Manchester's provisions trade. In recent years it was used as a covered market, home to 'alternative' style traders selling second hand books, records, comics and lots more.

The IRA bomb in 1996 put an end to all that, causing massive damage to the building and the expulsion of the traders. The building was given a thorough repair and renovation job, and re-opened on Monday 21 August 2000 as "The Triangle" Here we see a composite panorama of the revamped interior.

THE CORN EXCHANGE was officially re-opened as 'The Triangle' on 21 August 2000, after an extensive renovation job.

One part of the building which had suffered extensively in the IRA bomb was the domed glass roof, which we see here after repair and renovation.

I remember the Corn Exchange during the 1980's when it housed alternative traders. The building was virtually unchanged since its opening in 1906 and was full of period charm.

The post 1996 renovation job has turned a characterful old Manchester building full of the vitality of Manchester's post-Ship Canal boom years, into a bland and characterless shopping mall, decorated in sterile contemporary style and indistinguishable from any other shopping mall anywhere else in the world, apart from its triangular shape.

Even the name change reflects the loss of character - from "The Corn Exchange", with its connotations of agriculture, commodities, and lively trade - a key part of Manchester's heritage - to "The Triangle" - a three sided geometrical figure, or a very marginal and insignificant orchestral instrument (apologies to triangle players).

The loss of the Corn Exchange is one more reason for tourists not to come and visit Manchester.

Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
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