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City life: that hollow feeling

Confidential wants your views on city centre living

Published on July 29th 2008.


City life: that hollow feeling

City centre living version one: restaurants, museums, galleries, bars, theatres, clubs, shops, fun, excitement, energy.

City living version two (UK model): few doctors, fewer dentists, no schools, tiny green spaces, difficult, troublesome, bother.

Then from the cryonic deeps came a rapid defrosting and the body twitched to life. Suddenly if you stood long enough on an empty lot of land an apartment development formed round you.

City centre living in England's big cities outside the capital died in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. But it wasn't buried with a stake through its heart, just put on ice.

Then from the cryonic deeps came a rapid defrosting and the body twitched to life. Suddenly if you stood long enough on an empty lot of land an apartment development formed round you. Ex-bomb sites, ugly car parks, and waste ground blossomed. From squarking infant to pubescent adolescent, city centre living became a big obvious fact of life in almost the time it takes to get back from London by rail on a Sunday.

But like an adolescent it remains emotionally stunted, immature. Many people love city living, many love it for a while and then fall out of love and it's back to the suburbs. Some can't stand it. Some seek a transference of suburban life into the centre and then complain when things get too loud. And then they move back out.

Of course there are various factors that are likely to prompt a decision to move. But in the city centre it often comes down to a lack of important amenities – such as a doctors, a school, a corner shop, or a park.

In some respects this is a national rather than local issue – it's easy to think for instance about the problems many people experience in getting to see a NHS dentist regardless of where they live.

Yet at the same time the shape of Manchester's city centre has changed significantly in the last few years, with new apartment blocks accommodating a much larger population than ever before. Could this type of development, which generally comprises two bedroom flats with limited storage, with few nearby or on-site local amenities make things worse for many city centre residents?

Manchester based academic Richard Craggs is completing a study of the subject that looks to find out how things currently stand and what might be done in the future. He's seeking volunteers to share their views on city living, and maybe even fill in a questionnaire for him.

So if you live in any part of the City Centre Ward, the Chapel Street area of Salford, or the city centre's north/eastern fringe (which includes Ancoats, the end bits of Rochdale and Oldham Roads as well as the Green Quarter development) – why not assist in this research? The more people who participate, the more credible it will become and the more we'll know about city living. Craggs' questionnaire is available at here.

Or put your thoughts down below and tell us what you think of city centre living. Is it easy? Is it troublesome? What's missing?

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

burt CodeineJuly 29th 2008.

This has undoubtedly been said before but do 'Europeans' actually live in the 'city centre' of their respective cities or is it in reality that these residential areas are more extensions of the city themselves: they appear to be the 'city' in scale and buildings but are they merely large, dense 'burbs' seamlessly linked to the working/leisure areas of the city proper. I've noted Berlin and Barcelona (as two examples) have residential areas a mile or so (at least) out from the city proper but are less vibrant than the bar areas, but even so have facilities such as doctors/schools/playgrounds/supermarkets all on their doorstep. Perhaps it's places like Hulme/Anocats/Holt Town which will be more like it? The hotels in town should provide Public Transport (thorny I know) should link these new closer 'suburbs' to the the city centre.Hope a bit of that makes sense on these sweltering days...we've got Barcelona heat at least at the moment....

AliceJuly 29th 2008.

Ancoats Girl - I live in an ancoats development currently and experience the same thing.

JinkiesJuly 29th 2008.

I'm one of the moved in and had fun then moved out and settled down types, so I only lived in the centre a short while but I loved it. The only downside is the people that move in above/near bars and then immediately complain about the noise. I just don't get why people do that. I mean seriously, who moves to a city centre expecting quiet evenings?

rayneJuly 29th 2008.

Fair point burt codeine...I guess it depends what you call city centre. Manchester is pretty unusual really in that there is a huge swathe of ex-industrial land between the city centre and the suburbs, particularly to the east / NE of the city. In places like Leeds, Cardiff and even London it tends to be more of a gradual shift, with lots of old housing stock that's being developed over time and already has amenities in place. That said I'd love to see the residents of somewhere like Royal Mills clubbing together to create a shared ownership / not for profit corner shop type thing for their development...if they could do direct deals with suppliers and even local producers it could benefit everyone...

rayneJuly 29th 2008.

I get the bit about not having many parks, doctors and schools on the doorstep, but how many people in the city centre are seriously short of a corner shop? I have at least half a dozen within a 5 minute walk of me that are open pretty much whenever I want one!

AnonymousJuly 29th 2008.

I moved to Manchester City Centr two and a half years ago and I love it. I have everything I need on my doorstep, I never need to take a taxi anywhere and have met some great friends in my apartment block. I walk to work so no commute or travelling costs and after work I can meet my friends, go to the gym, go shopping or simply go home and crash without any careful planning. I say do it while your young!

AliceJuly 29th 2008.

People are too close for comfort, there is a lack of personal space. I never minded so much but as I experience the claustrophobic feeling more and more I feel the need to get out and breath! Also, lack of parking for residents and visitors can get annoying and the quality vs price of apartments is not good so when I eventually buy, I would not feel I would get my moneys worth in the city centre so that would eventually drive me elsewhere.

ancoats girlJuly 29th 2008.

I loved the convenience and the fact that everyone wanted to come round - but in the end I couldn't handle the noise and pollution any longer. In fact my GP told me I was at risk of developing asthma, so I knew it was time to go after 3.5 years. I also tired of the transient tenants around us - the ones that gave us trouble were wealthy students who didn't give a toss about being good neighbours. (Poor quality of the new build flats and lack of soundproofing didn't help either!) I decided that that unless you can pay top whack for a quiet penthouse in a nice building, it's not feasible long term. Now I have a big three bed Victorian with a garden, on a quiet cul de sac looking out over a three acre park - and it cost the same as a one bed flat in town. I'm still only 7-8 minutes from town on a bus and a taxi home is about £7, so I still go out clubbbing etc just as much as I did before. Love it!

cpingJuly 29th 2008.

This is my 10th year in the City Centre and I am in a minority... over 60 :-) and enjoy being here very much. I moved originally because the office is 3 minutes away and I though it a good investment. It still is. But then I am an owner occupier in a block where we have long staying residents mostly in their 30's. Manchester should be a Vibrant City not I vibrating one and, as one resident told me, “Even DJ have to sleep.” So I reject the notion residents should put up with intrusive noise.. but then have you heard the dawn chorus in Disbury? . Of course if you want to enjoy City Living long term sometimes you have to do something to help improve, so it works for everyone we share it with: the wider City Centre, community of workers shoppers visitors and pleasure seekers who have less voice than residents. It belongs to all Mancunians. In ten years I have seen a considerable improvement in noise, in litter, and other nuisances, in shopping, though I do agree that Manchester Markets is a disaster and we do need a supermaket (Leeds has one). We are getting at long last more GP's and a health centre but I am told the NHS Drop-In Centre on Station Approach is helpful. The one black spot is crime and disorder (area covered by police responsibilities) Now I'm off to stroll to the Cornerhouse for an exhibition and a cream tea before the film, and then to the Library to pick up a book they have got for me, a little late shopping in the Arndale, and home for steak and chips and good Pinot Noir, before meeting a pal in the Lass. Enjoy your City Centre Day!

Village-ishJuly 29th 2008.

I live in the city centre - just off Sackville Park and apart from the odd night when the 5th avenue lot go on a screaming march home at 3am - I think the experience is pretty good! Neighbours are all young professionals (we're the youngest at 27/26) and the only thing I really want to complain about is the road sweepers which for some reason routine clean Samuel Ogden Street at 12pm, 3am, 5am and 7am! I mean come on how much litter can a road accumulate in a two hour period!Other than that the city centre is everything its cracked up to be - no more taxi's, great night life on my door step and I walk to and from work so its healthy to boot!

AeronJuly 29th 2008.

I personally wouldn't live anywhere else: I walk to work and back; I don't have to worry about taxis if I'm having an evening out; I have great views across the city centre and beyond, and friends are always dropping by due to the central location.

Emone 59July 29th 2008.

Lived in town for 8 years and can't ever see myself growing tired of it. I walk to work and save a fortune on not having a car. I love walking to the pub and not having to worry about driving and when people are queueing for taxis at the end of the night and we can walk home. Sure, you get some noise but you have to be realistic about your expectations. Not really suited to families due to lack of creches, schools, doctors, NHS dentitsts etc and the council need to do more about all the above. The worst thing of all is the amount of litter that is dropped by shoppers.

keith bestJuly 29th 2008.

I lived in the city centre for 6 years in an unfashionable part of the northern quarter. Most other residents were owner occupiers, paid their service charges and we all lived happily ever. Although we didn't. The area and prices picked up, the pioneers cashed in and the flats began to be sold to investors and buy to let absent landlords. The demographic changed and respect for the building, neighbours and local area went into steep decline. The service charge went into serious arrears and we got through three management companies in 8 months.Residents meetings turned nasty with rows and recriminations. Our car was vandalised after saying that maybe we ought to get the crumbling exterior re-pointed before getting a roof garden and communal Sky dish with the money we (didn't actually) have.It got to the point where the dream was over and it was time to (reluctantly) head out to the burbs. In the process of moving we ended up staying four months in another apartment block just up the road. This was, from day one, even more anti-social than the old place. It's just like how the only real problem with public transport is the public. You pays your money...All the bestKB

FoodieJuly 29th 2008.

I work in the burbs and live in the city centre and I sometimes wish it was the other way around! If only Manchester City Centre had the food markets and decent food shops that Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham, etc have then I would stay in the centre. But I now do my food shopping in Chorlton - and not tesco - and it doesn't cost me a whole lot more!

Mo MoneyJuly 29th 2008.

Used to live in the city centre but moved out as got to the point could afford the apartment, but not go out. What with spiralling costs these days, makes it difficult, am not on a bad salary, but unless you're sharing, win the lottery or are on 40k plus you're priced out of it....never mind not being able to buy a property in the centre...will make do with the odd excursions in from the 'burbs

Kev PJuly 29th 2008.

I live in the heart of the city centre on the edge of Chinatown behind the Art Gallery and I love it to bits. Everything I need - bars, shops, restaurants, clubs, galleries, theatres - is within a 5/10 minute walk and I love the atmosphere of the city at night. There are some problems - noise is sometimes an issue with the idiot drunks stumbling past at night and there is a severe lack of amenities like dentists and GPs (although we're getting a new health centre in the next year). The main problem is the lack of a community identity - city centre dwellers tend to be quite insular and you don't have the community spirit you get in smaller, more close knit areas. I'm not really sure what can be done about this though? However, other than these issues I love it in the city centre!

burt CodeineJuly 29th 2008.

I think Ancoats is a little short on that front rayne - perhaps not the greatest distance to the nearest shops but certainly no immediate doorstep amenities (where are all the DVD rental shops too?) as far as I am aware. With a young family now, I cannot see myself living in the city centre in the UK at least...much as I'd like to - by the time somewhere like Holt Town & New Islington is up and running, the kids will have likely flown the nest anyway.

GregJuly 29th 2008.

I live in a warehouse on Whitworth St. I had to leave my last place because it was a plywood new build and the noise became unbearable. My new place is an old conversion and I never hear my neighbours from any side and it's glorious. However I do sleep with earplugs because they can't double glaze the listed windows and Whitworth St is a thoroughfare for loud clubbers and drinkers. I'm woken up maybe once a fortnight by them, but I can live with that. When I go to the countryside I can't sleep through the silence. What would make me leave would be that I could never afford to buy so if I wanted to get on the property ladder it would have to be in a criminal suburb. Also if they built schools in town and subsequently there were kids living in my building I'd probably want to leave then too.

AnonymousJuly 29th 2008.

I live in town and love it. Everything is so convenient and the buzz of living in the centre is fab. We have had the odd problem with tramps getting into our building but apart from that its great. I used to live in Levenshulme and had loads of hassle there aswell as never feeling safe so much prefer it! Could do with a few more parks though, All great cities have a great park, like New York, London and Barcelona.

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