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Jackson's Wharf plans

Peel Holdings listens to residents and local businesses over new building for Castlefield basin

Published on January 5th 2010.

Jackson's Wharf plans

Peel Holdings, owners of the Trafford Centre, developers of Mediacity and much else, have in the past seemed high-handed in their attitude to criticism.The old Manchester Ship Canal Company seemingly couldn't believe that anybody would ever turn against one of their schemes.

In that case while we think this is an acceptable design and much better than the terrible original design, it isn't special. You can't help but think that some of our European brethren would have been a bit braver in such a location.

So while they were surprised when their lumpen Jackson's Wharf development was initially turned down, they were astonished when the design was turned down a second time - almost exactly a year ago.But they appear to have learned their lesson.

They have a new scheme in the planning department awaiting perusal. Whereas the previous design by Ian Simpson Architects was too square, too heavy, and too high in leering over the nearby canal warehouse turned apartment block, Castle Quay, this design is much more suitable.

The architect leading the new Jackson's Wharf scheme is David Green of Ian Simpson Architects (ISA). As these pictures show, he has lowered the height from seven to six storeys, lightened the bulk and given it a profile respectful of the surrounding buildings. There are now 88 apartments as opposed to 116 in the original plans.

The change from the old design is so marked, so much more airy and light of touch, it makes you wonder whether the first one was just spat out by the designers over a Friday afternoon. Probably not.

A clever touch in the new scheme is in splitting the building into two blocks pivoted on a glass service and communal area. The higher block is close to the canal and the lower block on Blantyre street, reducing in height from front to back as it should. There is a generous terrace to the canal as well.

Another clever touch was in talking to people.

Thus Ed Burrows of Peel and David Green of ISA invited residents and local businesses, together with key interested parties such as Manchester Confidential, into the architect's office to view the proposals and talk them through. Suggestions were made by the guests at the meetings, some of which have been implemented.This was very welcome and further to this Peel intend to hold an exhibition soon in the area to show off the proposals.

Confidential had a couple of concerns which we expressed at the meeting. First off the facade to the canal in the proposal was reminiscent of One Piccadilly, with its blocky brick elements, and given the Allies and Morrison building is one of the most derided in the city that didn't bode well. Although to be fair this design seems much more aware of its surroundings.

That latter point might be the bigger of our concerns though. Is this building too conscious of being brick and being careful? Shouldn't everything in Castlefield be designed to be the very very best it can possibly be? Shouldn't this be the showcase place? The location as we've said many times is historically significant at an international level. It could also become central Manchester's main recreation area – these factors should be at the forefront of every designer or developer's mind.

In that case while we think this is an acceptable design and much better than the terrible original design, it isn't special. You can't help but think that some of our European brethren would have been a bit braver in such a location. Indeed why have those thick brick elements at all, a sharply designed glass box might have been more satisfactory here, and certainly more exciting? The massing of the buildings from canal side up to the ziggurat of City Gate on Chester Road is already oppressive with brick after all.

Still, at least through this re-working of the Jackson's Wharf scheme we've learnt that Peel Holdings have a human touch. At last something like the correct approach to development in so sensitive an area has been made. So well done Peel and Ian Simpson Architects for that at least.

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

jimjamJanuary 5th 2010.

Absolutely nailed it P&C. We need well proportioned, long-term living accommodation. It's no good having a single large apartment at the top of a badly managed apartment block. the reason those places never sell is because of those short stay tenants in the small 1 and 2 bed apartments running the place down.

Private&ConfidentialJanuary 5th 2010.

No word on the mix and sq footage of accommodation? Castlefield will never develop as the residents wish unless the housing offer is of the sort of size, quality and diversity to attract and retain a diverse, long standing resident owner-occupier population. Lets move this debate beyond aesthetics and consider whether small, pokey, inflexible, poorly managed 1 and 2 bed units which this development will undoubted contain (Peel are hardly the most innovative and altruistic of organisations) are really in the best interests of Castlefield.

Private&ConfidentialJanuary 5th 2010.

To expand on my previous post, Castlefield is surely the part of central Manchester best placed to maintain a long term, mature, resident community (what with its abundance of assets) key to achieving the sort of vital, interesting place we'd all like to see. If there is one key ingredient missing though, it is the housing offer with the usual proliferation of small, poor quality units aimed at the short term buy-to-let rather than the buy-to-live market. Now, if the global recession has a silver lining its surely the opportunity for intelligent, local housebuilders such as Urban Splash to look afresh at their business model and convert themselves (perhaps in partnership with a far sighted, socially aware financial institution such as the Co-op bank) into an investor-developer with a long term stake in an area and able to develop the sort of housing people actually want to live in, rather than the usual developer-trader model that relies on regular cash-flow, up-front sales and the inherent reliance on the investor market that likes small, cheap and easy to let. Unless some of the structural issues with the now bankrupt, pre-recession development model are addressed, you can be sure that we will be sitting here in another 10 years wondering why Castlefield is looking neglected and uncared for as its transient population continues to come and go. So, Tom Bloxham, fancy taking a hop over the Mancunian Way and pioneering a new development model while you're at it?

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2010.

Confidential...are you making the same mistake as Peel by adding your twopence about what kind of building should be there without actually asking any of the residents themselves? 'A sharply designed glass box' well that's hardly in keeping with the rest of the historic buildings in Castlefield is it?

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 5th 2010.

Anonymous, interesting points. First the 'historic' buildings you refer to were once industrial buildings designed to the most modern standards of their time. Castlefield is defined by these structures which are often as much products of engineering as much as architecture. We are not York we are Manchester, not a city which should be pickled in time, so go for a structure, we suggest, which reflects the heritage by being as modern and progressive today as the older buildings were yesterday - live up to that heritage and don't build pastiche 'warehouses' because they after five years look weak compared to the originals. This has already happened in in the basin at the end of Merchant's Bridge with the apartments there and indeed with the design for the present horrible Jackson's Wharf building. Secondly a decision on the design must be taken at some point and we must get rid of the eyesore that is Jackson's Wharf pub. Thirdly those residents who have expressed an active interest in Castlefield did get to meet to discuss and view the proposals.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2010.

Agree with P&C at the top - if they're going to do residential, do it properly. Decent quality, well managed, large HOMES. Not 600 sq ft 2 beds. I for one would love a 1500-2000 sq ft apartment overlooking Castlefield and would pay a premium for the right space.

The Real Mr AnonymousJanuary 5th 2010.

Boring box.What's going on with the roof other than laziness? Could be an office block in Slough.A building like this in this context needs roof level interest like a mansard or some such distraction. Come on Peel, put a bit of effort in. If you can't do it for architectural reasons, just think how much more people will like you for it!!

Patrick SudlowJanuary 5th 2010.

We are having similar problems in Hulme. Where developers come up with all sorts of scheme before ever consulting the local residents. The thing is the council supports these ill-thought out schemes because there are consistent with the Hare-brained schemes.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2010.

So much for Peel giving something back to Manchester in the shape of a cultural centre or something similar - Is this new scheme really what Castelfield needs ?More bog standard empty apartments??

LeeJanuary 5th 2010.

Not exactly cutting edge design or anything dissimilar from any other apartment block in Manchester, nice touch with all the glass, just what Castlefield is renowned for and needs more of to make it look like everywhere else

ajdJanuary 5th 2010.

BORING BORING BORING. architecturally, the first scheme pictured is far more interesting, although the scale and massing are completely out of proportion with what is already there. the facade treatment could have been nicely rehashed and put onto the new buildings bones- without those terrible glass balconies, perhaps they could set them back within the building volume. overall a move in the right direction but hardly anything to improve the area. shame

Eddy RheadJanuary 5th 2010.

Of course Peel Holdings have reduced the level of accommodation because this is the dawning of a new age with a new cuddly, caring, listening Peel. Nothing to do with a last ditch effort to get a fundamentally flawed scheme through planning and the slump in the housing market.

jayceeJanuary 5th 2010.

What meeting with local residents, did they whisper the invitations? The new proposal is still too imposing on the long east face and not at all attractive.

JSJanuary 5th 2010.

I live opposite that and whilst i'm happy for it to be redeveloped, that's rather a large building and looks like i'll be able to touch it from my window! No thanks!

Baron Rogers of RiversideJanuary 28th 2010.

Much better than the old proposal. One would be inclined to approve if the location of yet another 'best chippy in town' were clearly marked on the Ground Floor Layout plan. Alsop would be furious...

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