Posted by Neil Tague

Posted 21 December, 2015 OBI BLOG

Two-SPS-HighRes-from-Princess-St galleryHaving looked at how the new St John’s Quarter will be created from the old Granada Studios and its surrounds, OBI’s second Thinking Manchester session centred on St Peter’s Square. It’s a part of the city that’s already being used and looked at in a very different way by Mancunians and visitors to the city. You can see the highlights of our discussion here.

It’s hard to think of a part of Manchester where, from one spot, the eye can take in so many architectural gems – the Town Hall and its Extension, the Midland Hotel, Peter House, Manchester Art Gallery and of course the Central Library, now being eagerly used as a loved facility like it hasn’t been for years.

And that’s been the problem with St Peter’s Square as a whole. It should be a focal point, as James Heather says in our session here, “Manchester’s European-standard public square” but it hasn’t been. For years, many of the buses trundling up the Oxford Road corridor turned right here, while it became home to a bulky first incarnation of the Metrolink line. Over time, the way people moved around the city changed, but the routes allowing people to circumnavigate the square didn’t.

Key elements of the project to re-imagine and re-shape the square include the repositioning and giving a new prominence to Sir Edwin Lutyens’ Cenotaph; making the enlarged Metrolink stop work better than the old one, and making the public realm both work better and feel better. It won’t be finished for a while, but you can see the plan (by SimpsonHaugh) coming together.

Along with that, new buildings are already making this a key commercial as well as civic quarter, as KPMG partner Nick Dodd put it. As OBI’s Andrew Cowell says, it’s all about making the square something people travel to rather than through, whether for work, for play, or for study.

No 1 St Peter’s Square is in the groove. Mosley Street Ventures’ 2 St Peter’s Square, with a 40,000 pre-let to EY, is coming next, while at Number Three, Property Alliance Group has been appointed to make things happen. The long-mothballed Odeon site could happen soon, while close by at the Mosley Street junction, investor Boultbee Brooks has acquired a portfolio of sites that will be repurposed and re-presented to the market.

Not only is it important, said Phil Griffin, that the square doesn’t simply become an extension of the Christmas markets, real thought should be given to positive purposes, ways it could serve the city. Phil’s suggestion of a libraries festival, putting an array of truly great Manchester buildings to use, is an intriguing one, and surely one well worth pursuing.

Highlights of the session are here.