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REVEALED: Major New City Centre Tower Planned

Jonathan Schofield and a tall neighbour for St John's Gardens

Written by . Published on February 3rd 2015.


REVEALED: Major New City Centre Tower Planned
 

A MAJOR new city centre tower block designed by architect's Stride Treglown is set to rise. It will be in an important location as well, between Quay Street and the lovely St John's Gardens.

Confidential doesn't mind the design at all and doesn't think it too tall, it has lightness and character in its profile.

This is what the architects say: 'The proposed building has been designed with a staggered form to respond sensitively to the immediate surroundings, and, in particular, to neighbouring historic buildings and the wider St John Street Conservation Area.

'The building consists of 14 storeys of office accommodation next to Lower Byrom Street, reducing to 6 storeys closer to Byrom Street. This accommodation sits over a double height ground floor which houses the office entrance lobby and two shops or restaurants - adding interest and vibrancy at street level. The development will also provide two levels of basement parking accessible via Lower Byrom Street.

'The building will be an attractive addition to the Manchester skyline and will revitalise a currently underused plot in the city.' 

The below is an elevation from the south (the Garden's side) with the shadowy imprint of the soon-to-be-built Ian Simpson Architects' No.1 Spinningfields - a nineteen-storey office tower to go up opposite on Quay Street and Spinningfields Lawns.

View of the proposed building from St John's GardensView of the proposed building from St John's Gardens

The building, financed by 'a major UK public sector pension fund' will replace two structures by the most over-worked architects of the period, Leach Rhodes & Walker (Heron House, Centurion House, Manchester House and so on). These are Astley House from 1959 and Byrom House from 1965. Both are very dated with lamentable interiors.

Astley House was always a monster but there is an attractive Modernist discipline to the grid of Byrom House facing St John's Garden's. Perhaps those great rescuers of sixties shock architecture, Manchester developers Bruntwood, could have tidied this up and sorted it out, but otherwise not many people outside the Modernist Society will miss the building.

From a similar angle nowByrom House - decent but doomed

Astley House - soon for the chopAstley House - soon for the chop (Byrom House can be seen peeking behind)

The step back in the new design to Lower Byrom Street gives the important 1770s building, Cobden House, room to breathe. Now barristers chambers, this was once home to prominent politician Richard Cobden and later the first building of Owen’s College, the predecessor of the University of Manchester. As the Design and Access Statement from Stride Treglown reveals, the architects have thought long and hard about the heritage of the area - click here. 

Cobden House from the 1770s has room to breatheView from the Opera House: Cobden House from the 1770s has room to breathe

Tom Dixon, Chair of St John's Residences, is less sure of some aspects of the design: "Redevelopment is required for Astley House and Byrom House and there has been a real consideration for the conservation area in terms of bricks and mortar but there seems to be little recognition of the importance of the park as the focus for the area. The building will dominate the park. It's a shame it couldn't have maybe been stepped back this way instead."

He has a point, but also acknowledges that the new building will be on the north side of the Gardens and not interfering with sunlight striking this patch of handsome greenery. 

Here's What It Will Look Like From AboveHere's how it will look from above (note Spinningfields to the right)

Dixon has another point as well.

"St John's Passage on the north of the Gardens has listed street furniture and while the new building will allow for this pedestrian passage to be widened at ground level, it will, a couple of floors up, cantilever aggressively towards the Gardens. I'm worried it will create a tunnel-effect where there was once an airy tree-lined passageway."

St John's Passage with listed street furnitureSt John's Passage with listed street furniture

Still, it is time to refresh this frontage onto St John's Gardens and Quay Street. It should be remembered that the design is lower over the park than at Lower Byrom Street.

Of more concern is the overall mass of the building, its footprint is huge. Look at the aerial render higher on this page to see how that footprint is much larger than that of Sunlight House. Given the scale it will be interesting to see how the architects order the interior spaces.

The pace of change is picking up here. South West city centre Manchester is the big thing at the moment. The ideas for St John's Quarter - the former Granada site - are taking shape, and Quay House is being demolished to make way for No1 Spinningfields. Interesting times.

There's a lot of building here as can be seen with the western elevationThere's a lot of building here as can be seen with the western elevation

St John's Gardens

These were formerly the site of St John’s church, finished 1769, demolished 1931. The cross says that this small site contains the remains of 22,000 people, new research places the figure at an extraordinary 24,113.

The dead includes curious characters such as 67-year-old Thomas Raspo of Withington, a Frenchman, buried on 23 January 1824 who was ‘clever enough to keep a wife and a concubine in the same house’.

More significant is the grave of John Owen who died in 1846 and left £96,654 for the founding of a non-denominational university. This opened in 1851 and was the ancestor of University of Manchester. Owen lived at Cobden House as described in the main text above.

Only Owen’s gravestone (and that of his father) remain. Even William Marsden who campaigned for the half-day holiday on a Saturday and gave working people respite in the 1840s from endless drudgery has lost his monument, although he’s mentioned on the memorial cross. 

Nearby the bollards at St John's Passage, see picture above, feature two cannon barrels sticking out of the pavement acting as bollards. They are real cannon and mark the area where in 1745 Charles Edward Stuart practised with his artillery on his abortive attempt to wrest the throne from the Hanoverians and return it to the Stuart kings. Artillery Street is opposite, over Byrom Street. 

St John'sThe new building from St John's

From a similar angle nowFrom a similar angle now

Elevation from the northElevation from the north

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

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

It seems like the good times for construction are back, at least in Manchester.

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

NOT TALL ENOUGH...

7 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

Would be better taller. But I hear the blocks that are planned for along the river will be considerably taller.

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

I hope that with all of these new towers that are popping up, crazies don't want to fly planes into them. Just sayin'

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

That's a pretty sour and somewhat daft statement.

SquirrelitoFebruary 4th 2015.

Anon 2, if New York are building taller and taller, and the practice building the new Manchester Graphene Centre are midway through 432 Park Avenue, as tall, if not taller than the new WTC, our planned 30-40 storey mid-rises should attract little attention from the mentalists. en.wikipedia.org/…/432_Park_Avenue…

SquirrelitoFebruary 5th 2015.

or is it anon 3, whatever. No risk from crazies, either way x

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

IS aren't mentalists.

SquirrelitoFebruary 5th 2015.

you're absolutely right, they are the centre for multicultural understanding. My mistake. x

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

Pension fund investment coming into the city on this scale must be good news. The first industrial city in the world is powering into the 21st century before our very eyes!

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

Boo. What is wrong with Astley House? With its expanse of glass encased in a regular concrete grid and the cantilevered window it has good proportions and discipline, resembling many of the better commercial office buildings going up today. This all-glass replacement looks fussy and poorly detailed and if anything looks more dated than the building it replaces to me. Love the historical details in the article - a good read.

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

My dad used to work in Astley House in the 70s and he called it Ghastly House. He was also appalled by the recently demolished 1960s building which used to be on the opposite side of St Peters Square to the library, and he isn't too impressed with its replacement.

10 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

The replacement building on St Peter's Sq is preset damn good....

rinkydinkFebruary 3rd 2015.

The previous building was shite and the new one is top notch. He doesn't know what he's talking about

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

That's unfair Rinkydink. You don't know the man's father. I bet he likes other things in the city though. The town hall tfor instance. I bet he likes to eat out too and always tips the waiter 10% or 15%.

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

WTF!

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Elizabeth House was hideous. Are you for real? The new building is not York Minster but it is better than was was there before.

David SmithFebruary 4th 2015.

The new building St Peter is beautiful

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Ha, is Anon suggesting the man with the plan Rinkydink doesn't tip?

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

If he is and whether or not it is true, if you find it funny then you're simple

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

@Above That doesn't make sense. Certain people don't tip. Perhaps you're one of them.

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

Has everyone been smoking super-skunk? These "rants" are getting more and more bizarre

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

Wow! People in Manchester kept concubines? Who'd have thought?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Saucy KnaveFebruary 4th 2015.

He was French of course

Tom DFebruary 4th 2015.

I read the planning document and seems to me that ST John's gardens is destined to be stripped of its tranquility and become the entrance space for a big new office block. I have seen it all before. When developers get their hands on public space (Picadilly gardens) not much garden gets left for the public.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 4th 2015.

This is utterly different than Piccadilly Gardens Tom.

SquirrelitoFebruary 4th 2015.

Has permission been granted? Seems like a reasonable step up from the Deansgate end of Quay St, to the new St John's Gardens tower, Quay St is heading for a dramatic clustered street scene with these and No1Spinningfields and the other riverside towers due to follow

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

This looks nice but is too small. We want skysrcapers to enhance our skyline. This is the sort of building that would excite people in Preston not a city heading for Devolution. When are we going to see some real height.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

When a developer is willing to spend the money to do so. I'd rather have nice buildings than ones that are tall for the sake of being tall.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

I am sure people could contact the developer and suggest they would like to see a taller build? Planning permission is often granted for the increase in height. Worth a shot. I am being dense! Who is the developer?

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

I somehow doubt that a developer is going to pay any attention to some randomer emailling them and saying "I want you to build it taller"

Mark FullerFebruary 8th 2015.

Despite the modest height, this will be an imposing addition to the burgeoning Manchester skyline. There is an element of creativity and ingenuity in the design-often lacking in modern architecture- which is pleasing. These are exciting times for Manchester{the capital of the north}, but a really remarkable,iconic tall building is needed if Manchester is to stand out amongst the international competition.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

There's an awful lot of rather negative quibbling here. Manchester has a unique industrial and commercial history and I sense that, against the odds perhaps, it now has the potential to develop and grow into one of the most successful European cities. This particular development is a major inward investment which is part of that process. This doesn't mean of course that anything can be built anywhere, but there is a bigger picture to keep in mind.

Michael IngallFebruary 4th 2015.

Tall buildings should always be grounded and sit in there own space, the relationship of the proposed, NO 1 spinningfields to hardman square was a vital consideration, and justification for the tall building, our tall st johns buildings are similarly grounded and will have public realm around them as per the cjc, I am unsure what this building is, is it tall? Or is it badly stepped? the devil is in the detail, but our st johns masterplan is crafted around maintaining the function of St John's gardens and I think that really important, and extreme care needs to be taken with this development to ensure that. Buildings designed on a layered basis are always difficult and the tree parts of this building are not relative and do not sit well as a pure piece of architecture, we can see what drives the principle, but no what is driving the detail, how much better if all three parts were in proportion, good principles poorly executed, not good enough for ST JOHN'S.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

That's what you get when the client (in this case a West Midlands pension fund) employs a mainstream commercial architectural practice rather than a design-led one. The rigour and attention to detail is just not there - and it shows.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Hear hear Michael, well said.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2015.

The new court is the best new building in Manchester by a country mile. Totally iconic. I love the view of it through the gap near the Kings Arms off Trinity way. That building would not shame Manhattan. It is effortlessly beautiful. Sadly the only building in Spinningfields which is. The rest are boring.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Basically with construction work going on soon. The only bit of tranquil green space in central Manchester will be the bit behind House of Fraser. Ah well..

19 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

And within a few minutes you have Pomona and The Meadows.

GimboidFebruary 4th 2015.

Apart from Parsonage Gardens. Apart from Sackville Gardens. Apart from the Roman fort at Castlefield. Apart from the grounds around UMIST. Apart from Cathedral Gardens. None of which are disrupted by construction work. Silly Anon.

Not that David!February 4th 2015.

Gimboid, Rinkydink.......and Poster Boy when he turns up. The majority of ANONs on this site are 'glass half empty people'......just the way it is.

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

I don't know what they want Manchester to be but it's always somewhere else. London is this or Newcastle is that or Liverpool.... Liverpool ffs. Like I've said before, if you don't like it then try to influence it. Or move somewhere else. Failing those, just shut up because it's fucking monotonous negative bile that affects everyone else's mood

GimboidFebruary 4th 2015.

While we're ranting, the other bollocks negative mindset cliche of the moment is "Manchester is losing its character / becoming bland"

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

Which basically means they're stuck in the past and can't move forward or change their way of viewing the world. Poor little Anons

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

@You two above...you're right...let's 'move forward' and have the council demolish less eco-friendly buildings that will have a smaller carbon footprint and save the tax payer money. Town Hall for starters do you?

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

GOD you're boring

SquirrelitoFebruary 4th 2015.

The city centre, if we want it to be European 1st Division, needs to evolve, the more it evolves the better architecture it will demand. This is not to say that jewels, listed or not, should not be saved, many should be thrust forward.But modern can frame old well, done right. Nothing coming don on Quay Street needs mourning. If only Sunlight House, the Empire State Building of Euroe that was nixed by the council, had been given free reign in the 30s, these whinges would be irrelevant

GimboidFebruary 5th 2015.

Deliberately fuckwitted smartarse questions will not be honoured with a decent response, Anon.

rinkydinkFebruary 5th 2015.

The fuckwits are out in force on this particular comments list

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

@You two above Get a room.

rinkydinkFebruary 5th 2015.

God you sound like my Grandad. And he's 98. You really need to stop clinging to the past and sweeping generalisations in your attempts to put people down. I don't care what you say for a start and you make yourself look like a fool. So I win

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Fool? Winning? WTF!...as you would say.

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Clinging to the past? You really need to stop clinging to the past and sweeping generalisations, Rinkydink.

rinkydinkFebruary 5th 2015.

And please create your own insults. I would find those more entertaining. Thanks

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

How about Mancon pet?

rinkydinkFebruary 5th 2015.

Boring. Now - back to the original point. Oh yes... Zzzzzzz. Next!

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Is that you best shot? Zzzzz!

JanusxxxFebruary 4th 2015.

Greater mcr pensions funds property venture fund are part owners of 1 St peters square which is way better than the monstrosity that was Elizabeth house. Buildings like Elizabeth house are riddled with things like concrete cancer and are costly to maintain like the building the pensions fund is in now at droylsden. The pensions fund is moving over the road to a new building before the end of the year, looks good so far, will still have a flat roof tho! Does anyone know what will happen to the ghastly concord suite when the pensions fund moves out ?

MarkFebruary 4th 2015.

Great, let's turn the City back in to a slum, devaluing the excessive number of flats already and leaving no green space. Just wonderful.....N O T

5 Responses: Reply To This...
Terry Berry, Son of MaryFebruary 4th 2015.

Excessive number of flats? Says who? Are you a property market analyst Mark? Or just a ranting nobody?

rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

I couldn't work out whether he was being sarcastic or not. It makes no sense. I'm telling you there is some strong stuff being smoked tonight by ManCon ranters

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Not-rights do tend to smoke weed in and around Piccadilly Gardens Rinkydink. You obviously know the signs, so perhaps you're one o' dem bro!

rinkydinkFebruary 5th 2015.

Yep. Because I can tell when people are talking rubbish, I am a Piccadilly Gardens weed-smoker. Great rationale there Anon! Keep up the good work

AnonymousMarch 6th 2015.

Green spaces are a problem here,but i agree with you that some of these people harp back to a golden era that never was. I don't want to go back to boarded up Hulme,derelict Salford docks, a time when the only jobs were working for the council or in retail. We are trying to become a European powerhouse. The park in New Islington needs action. That is a big space and has been left to rot. Why?

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Jonathan you mention that the new design gives Cobden House room to breathe. A more well-thought out design would give St. John's Gardens room to breathe. It's St. John's Gardens, not Cobden House, that are used by residents, workers and tourists as a place to take a calm breath away from the stress of city. Building closer to St. John's Gardens and putting 13-17 stories along half the length of them is not at all conducive to that. Much more thought is needed with the design of this building; the proposed design is wrong for this sensitive location.

8 Responses: Reply To This...
rinkydinkFebruary 4th 2015.

Tall buildings next to parks can work. NYC? Hardly the same scale here but it can still work

SquirrelitoFebruary 4th 2015.

I'd be tempted to put a covenant into any granting of permission for developers to maintain and improve public realm. The council don't care, let some one make it thrive. St Johns Gardens are drab. Have been forever. Allow a coffee / restaurant shed and supply some life. Our small open spaces can fly. Bryant Park in Manhattan is the template. Filled with drugs and prostitution, truly No-go. And now thriving with life, its the pockets of stuff like that we should learn from

Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 5th 2015.

I think some people would prefer Manchester to be a sleepy market town such as Ludlow, Kirkby Lonsdale or Richmond. It's not. I think we need a better quality and more thoughtful set of ranters on here - I'm going to think about our policy on this. The Gardens are on the south side of the development, the sunny side, so this building will not be a problem, it will add some urban excitement to a city location - Rinkydink is right. The idea of making the developers help with maintenance of the Gardens, as stated in the article and by Squirrelito, is a good one too, for example the tarmac paths need a more sympathetic re-thinking. Hey and walk through St John's Garden's now and you can see how the snowdrops are coming up. Lovely it be.

rinkydinkFebruary 5th 2015.

Could you not drop Anonymous ranting JS? They are by far the most regressive, meaningless and drongo-minded commenters. And as a regular ranter, I don't know whether I'm dealing with one loony or 50

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Rinkydink is right? Ha, I bet he 'wins' plenty of ManCon competitions too. This new design is bland, Schofield. Surely you do enough touts to appreciate that? As for better quality, there's plenty of 'quality' new build in the city and rubbish builders that end up being criticised on ManCon.

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Tall buildings immediately next to parks can work. But not in this case. This is a park that's the focal point of a designated conservation area. The poorly-considered proposal above would unacceptably choke St. John's Gardens damaging the very character that makes it so popular. The building should be re-designed to step sensitively away from the Gardens, leaving them to continue their role undisturbed as a quiet place of respite in an ever-busier city.

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Nothing against these particular proposals, but not all recent developments on Quay Street have benefitted the cityscape and inspired confidence that this city is "getting it right", eh Jonathan? Remember this: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/The-Good-the-Standard-and-the-Ugly-Wooden-setts… Replacing a handsome, elaborate structure (giving a drama to function) with a "dreary" office block - in your own fine words. Direct Line House hardly benefits Cobden House either does it? So maybe the "pessimistic mindset" of many posters on here is quite understandable, eh?

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2015.

Disgraceful knocking down the skin hospital, used to work in that area and always felt a pit of sadness walking past the garbage that replaced it. What was the rationale?

Poster BoyFebruary 5th 2015.

The Editor of ManCon appears as culpable as many of the ranters in seeing Manchester in black and white. All development is not good development per se. And as for developer contributions and obligations. How about writing about the developer section 106 and affordable housing contributions arising from the current ''boom'? How much has been demanded by the City, how much has been paid, where it resides, how it is spent (or not)? etc etc. Writing about the impact of development instead of the simplistic reporting of planning applications and pasting rendered images for superficial comment, would be a more meaningful contribution to any discussion on development proposals in Manchester, Ludlow or Kirkby Lonsdale.

SteamyFebruary 5th 2015.

If ever there has been a rant column that proves unequivocally that 'anon' posting needs to be stopped, this is it.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Steamy rants should outlawed too. Pure filth.

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Loosen up steamy you sound a little tense.

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2015.

Speaking of parks, Barcelona has some great city parks close to its centre. I visited one recently that had orange trees with fruit ready to pick. I do think Mcr would benefit from an improved park offering. Especially as the city becomes more popular across the UK and Europe.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 7th 2015.

Barcelona should never be used as a measure for a Northern European city as it has amazing weather and that makes all the difference. A better example of a city to ape would be somewhere like Stockholm pr Copenhagen. Now we already have the trams so let us Scandinavianise Manchester.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2015.

No one said use Barcelona as a measure. I agree the cities you mention have nice parks - Superkilen is great. We need something unique for central Manchester though taking into account lack of space.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2015.

A couple of these would be a start - keepsouthbendbeautiful.files.wordpress.com/…/img_6800.jpg…

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2015.

I worked in Astley House for a few years up to 2012. Was a concrete block of sorts, but it's big windows gave it a bit more charm than most. This seems a reasonable development to me, as long as the park is kept in a good way. It's a beautiful place to escape at lunch or after work, and any development should come second to keeping it in the best state possible.

Kevin PeelFebruary 7th 2015.

City centre councillors and local residents have organised a meeting with the architects from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesday 10th February at Astley House. It is a drop-in session but there will be a presentation at 7pm and councillors will also be there at that time. We'd really encourage interested parties to come along.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 7th 2015.

Do you have any info re Lincoln Square becoming a park Kev?

Kevin PeelFebruary 8th 2015.

It is something we very much support. I'll be meeting the architects who came up with the exciting plans and we're pushing in the council for significant funding for green projects in the city centre from the 'Clean & Green' fund which we're hoping will be successful

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2015.

I'd like to see that car park in the middle of China Town turned into a, possibly Chinese inspired, garden square.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2015.

Always thought the Chinatown car park would be a perfect place for a Chinese market. Hustle and bustle, food stalls and the like. Not too difficult to do either. Would be a good thing to do for the Chinese new year at least?

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2015.

A market would be great for Chinatown.Manchester needs a few specialist markets .

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 6th 2015.

This is a terrific idea. Also the new market earmarked for Stevenson square should be more often than once a fortnight. The NQ is a proper community. It would be great for residents if they had a proper market and great for people working in the city centre. Markets create character and are good social gathering points.What we do not want is a Manc Borough market(London) though. We want a practical one where people can buy stuff they need.

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