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Library Theatre could have gone to Northern Quarter

Ancoats was also on 2009 shortlist, report reveals

Published on November 25th 2010.

Library Theatre could have gone to Northern Quarter

The Library Theatre could have ended up in the Northern Quarter instead of its proposed new home on First Street.

Arts organisation All about Audiences has been commissioned to explore audience potential on the new site, and are ‘very positive’ about First Street. ‘The Cornerhouse audience is not dependent on passing trade so it is reasonable to assume that the significant footfall that Cornerhouse currently enjoys can be transferred down Whitworth Street.’

A city council report confirming the move to a new £19m, 45,000 sq ft building that will also house the Cornerhouse shows that several options were looked at for the Library Theatre.

They included the BBC building on Oxford Road; the Theatre Royal; Mackie Mayor in the Northern Quarter; the Boddingtons site and St Peter’s Church in Ancoats, as part of a 2009 study carried out by research consultancy Ekosgen.

First Street was also mentioned but not seriously considered as a lack of funding for the site and the financial difficulties faced by its owner, Ask Developments, meant that ‘ the timescales appeared undeliverable’.

The Theatre Royal was given the nod, envisaging a 2013 opening, but the council performed a u-turn this week because of a possible two-year delay to those plans.

‘ This would mean that the LTC would be without a permanent home for five years and possible further disruption should it take longer to complete the associated development,’ said the report. ‘This will clearly be a major challenge in terms of keeping the brand alive and developing the new audience that will be required.’

The council also said the Theatre Royal site would be too small for the Library Theatre’s plans to open out its back of house operations to the public and for use as classrooms.

‘The limitations within a listed building would also increase the capital costs and reduce the opportunities for commercial income from trading activities such as retail, catering and corporate uses, and thereby increasing dependency on public sector resources,’ it said.

Discussions over a possible hotel operator for the Theatre Royal site are also stalling and no agreement has yet been reached. There have also been ‘significant planning and heritage issues’ associated with those plans, which involved a modern-looking skyscraper.

Arts organisation All about Audiences has been commissioned to explore audience potential on the new site, and are ‘very positive’ about First Street. ‘The Cornerhouse audience is not dependent on passing trade so it is reasonable to assume that the significant footfall that Cornerhouse currently enjoys can be transferred down Whitworth Street.’

The report also reaffirms the development agreement it signed with Ask which saw the authority contribute ‘several small parcels of land at the south of the site in return for a share in the profits of the development.

‘By creating a sense of place at First Street it will enhance the commercial development potential of the site helping to drive the delivery of the wider redevelopment of the area.

‘As a result it is anticipated that the site for the cultural facility can be made available to the city council for the project at a nominal cost, without a detrimental impact to the overall financial position under the proposed revised development framework.’

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

JackNovember 25th 2010.

Aah I see, its a development deal stitch up between ASK and City Council, nothing to do with art or culture or where footfall actually is - nor does it follow any kind of previous plan or policy - like the Cultural Corridor of Oxford Rd plan - so MCC decide to remove one of the key cultural venues from Oxford Street - very smart!

AnonymousNovember 25th 2010.

Are there any site plans of where this new development is going to be? From that artists interpretation it seems to be wedged on the new lawn that they've just laid. is this right?

GMSNovember 25th 2010.

Whilst there is clearly a huge sense of emotion surrounding the displacement and rehousing of one of Manchester's cultural crown jewels, I do feel that we should not be overly negative.

The council on paper at least, are making sound and reasoned arguments for their above decisions.

The completed project achieves the following:

The Central Library is being renovated (hence the LTC moving).

The Theatre Royal planners will now be able to focus solely on adapting (within the Grade II listing constraints) to house the proposed/mooted 48-storey Intercontinental hotel, rather than trying to also crow-bar a theatre in to a no longer fit for purpose space.

The Library Theatre gets a new purpose built space.

The Cornerhouse gets a larger purpose built space that it apparently requires.

Both become less reliant on the public subsidy which is ever increasingly scarce.

The 'First St' redevelopment gets some impetus at a time when competition within the city and across the country will be more difficult than ever. This area may not have a sense of place at present, but the vision has to be for the completed project.

So many people love the Cornerhouse and to me in so many ways it epitomises 'Manchester' in that intangible way that cannot be bought, but handled with care, this could really work.

It's the people that make a place, not the bricks and mortar. One would assume that the Cornerhouse and LTC staff will remain and if public care so much, then they will follow.

Good luck, I say! Such projects and ambition should be saluted in these austere times.

Mark10046December 1st 2010.

Could be Manchester's very own Pompidou Centre. Let's hope for innovative use of the area to increase footfall

sagesseDecember 14th 2010.

I can't believe the ineptitude of this. Both existing locations are beautiful iconic buildings with immediate public transport and both organisations even carry the name of these places. This reminds me of when Liverpool demolished the Cavern club. I can't take these people seriously any more.

Mike AmesburyDecember 22nd 2010.

Despite very challenging economic times we will continue to focus investment into growth sectors of the economy. Both the Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre have outgrown their current locations, bringing these great cultural institutions together will ensure that they grow and add even more vibrancy to the Manchester art scene. I look forward to the next Manchester adventure

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