In Manchester, for quite a few years now, a massive construction boom has been going on. From a distance, for instance from the airport some 8 miles or 13 kilometres to the south, the new towers of Deansgate Square actually look like a small Manhattan.
New buildings are appearing in many parts of the city. Everywhere you can see cranes. On every corner you can hear the sound of pneumatic hammers, power saws and drills.
The shape of the slim residential towers reminds me a lot of the Twin Towers of New York
Did the designers have this idea in mind when they first drew outlines on the back of an envelope? I would like to find out!
On brownfield sites, we can see new city districts, commercial developments, office buildings with co-working spaces, apartment buildings, multi-storey car parks, shops, cafes, restaurants, gardens and infrastructure such as access roads, footpaths and pedestrian bridges being built
According to the Office of National Statistics, construction levels in Manchester in 2018 were ten times the national average.
In Manchester, building regulations are different to other major British cities. There are no height restrictions. The city’s planning department gives the project developers free rein.
In the 1960s, Manchester got the CIS Tower and a few other high-rise buildings. In the 80s and 90s, development in the city remained dormant.
On the 15th of June 1996, an IRA bomb exploded on Corporation Street. It destroyed an entire city district. Fortunately, no people were killed, although around 200 were injured.
In the years that followed, a large part of the city centre was rebuilt. Unfortunately, some historic buildings were lost during this time. They were soon forgotten and the transformation of the city continued.
In 2006 the Beetham Tower became the tallest building in Manchester, overtaking the CIS building.
Now, several projects under construction will far exceed the height of the Beetham Tower.
And so we can see how Manchester is becoming ‘Manc-hattan’, even though its new skyscrapers are much smaller than those in New York! Manc-topia is the name of a BBC documentary which takes a look behind the scenes at the new ‘makers of Manchester’.
Most commercial projects are being built on the edge of the city centre on brownfield sites. Here once stood factories and industrial buildings that were demolished.
These areas were mostly used as car parks until a few years ago, when the building boom took hold.
There are several “hotspots” where new construction projects are reaching higher and higher into the sky.
The most spectacular example is located a little bit south of the city centre.
The Deansgate Square development consists of four towers of various heights with apartments starting at around 259,000 pounds or 280,000 euros.
In 2018 the South Tower became the tallest building in Manchester at a height of 201 metres or 660 feet, with 65 floors. The project is being developed by Renaker.
On the former site of the BBC on Oxford Road, Circle Square is being built, a new district with apartment buildings, living space for students and professionals, workspaces and a new city park.
The new project contrasts with the old six-storey BBC building. Developers are Bruntwood and Vita.
There are many other projects, here are a few more examples:
The Mayfield Depot, where a new city district will emerge from a former station building and its surroundings.
On the east side of the city centre, further apartment buildings are being built next to the Ashton Canal and the new marina
Unfortunately, the renovation of the former Ancoats Dispensary has been stopped. An application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was rejected. At the moment the renovation project is being kept on ice.
I find it scandalous that while millions of pounds are being spent on new construction projects in Ancoats, this important historic building stands empty and derelict.
In my opinion, the developers should use some of their profits to help to finally bring this project to realisation.
And now a few more new projects: On Crown Street, Elizabeth Tower and Victoria Tower are under construction with 664 apartments and a swimming pool on the 44th floor.
the ‘Blade’ and Cylinder’ towers will offer 855 apartments.
Several new projects offer only rental apartments, plus facilities such as fitness centres, restaurants and communal areas.
Angel Gardens on the north side of the city centre has been completed for some time now. There are studio apartments available here from £1,000 a month. This includes access to a fitness centre, cinema, workspace, library, residents’ association and other facilities.
Affordable housing is an important issue. Manchester is a city of contrasts. Here on the street you will encounter people from all income groups from the homeless to millionaires.
Unfortunately, many of the new projects offer little or no affordable housing.
On the former site of Granada Studios, ‘The Factory’ cultural centre is under construction. The architect is Rem Koolhass from the Netherlands, and his company Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)
The largest and most distinctive project is probably Trinity Islands. It was approved in 2017 and will be built on the southwest edge of the city centre on a former car park next to the River Irwell.
The project offers almost 1,400 apartments and consists of five towers. The largest, Tower X with 67 floors, will reach to a height of 213 metres or nearly 700 feet. It will be the tallest building in Greater Manchester and the tallest in Britain outside London.
‘A vertical village with gardens and communal areas in the sky’ is how the project is described in publicity materials. Affordable apartments for city centre workers are also said to be part of the scheme, and I’m glad to hear it will offer a public observation platform.
So how will the new Manchester look? Will all income groups have a share in it? Will the new ‘Manc-hattan’ be a place where people will want to stay or will they later move out into the suburbs to live in a house?
How long will the construction boom last? What effect will the corona crisis have on the development of Manchester.
These are questions to which I do not have an answer, but I will continue – from a distance – to observe the development of Manc-hattan.