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
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
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
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
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
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.