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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A common complaint is the lack of high quality open space, particularly green open space in Manchester City Centre. Whilst the city does boast many well designed spaces there appears to be a general feeling that there is not nearly enough - especially given the dense and intensive way the city is developing.

The problem is exacerbated by the characteristically narrower streets in Manchester and the tightly packed central core. Added to this the extremely poor design solution afforded to Piccadilly Gardens and planning blunders such as the Arndale Centre extension which has grossly extended a much loathed shopping centre rather than persuing a streets-and-squares strategy.







Here is the council's response to the problem, prompted by a question posed by a member of the public on their website.......

I think we all agree that open space in a city is very important. The problem is that the tight grain of the City's historic street and development pattern coupled with high land values makes it impossible for the City Council to create new areas of open space in isolation.

However, particularly through our regeneration initiatives, we take every opportunity to add to open space provision in the City Centre and this has made a huge contribution to Manchester's renaissance.. The works in the City Centre Renewal Area, particularly Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens, the Piccadilly Regeneration Initiative, Spinningfields, Great Northern and Castlefield have added considerably to open space provision in the City Centre. We will aim to ensure that future regeneration strategies at Southern Gateway and within the 'Arc of Opportunity' as part of Manchester: Knowledge Capital, make similar contributions.

In addition to this we have upgraded existing schemes and, through pedestrianisation, created areas such as St.Ann's Square, Albert Square, the Peace Gardens, Market St, King St, and Brazennose St. We also have a programme to upgrade existing green areas of the City Centre at Parsonage Gardens, Sackville Park and St. Johns Gardens. We take every opportunity to plant new street trees in the City Centre and attempt to accommodate them in new developments and to create walkways along our rivers and canals.

There are a number of large parks which are within easy walking/ travelling distance of the City Centre such as Hulme Park, Phillips Park, Alexandra Park, and Heaton Park, all of which provide quality resources for City Centre residents.

I think that the way we use the available space in our city is very important. We are attempting to reduce the amount of vehicles in the City Centre by encouraging modal shift to other forms of transport such as buses, walking, cycling and of course, Metrolink. If we are successful in these initiatives we should have a win/win outcome - a thriving, vibrant city but with more of our street space available for use as social space.

27 January 2005





What are people's ideas and aspirations in relation to this problem? Personally I would have liked the council, for once to take an intelligent, long term and strategic view and create a large edge-of-city-centre park like they have at Eastside in Birmingham. Unfortunately with projects like Eastgate set to send land values in Picc Basin skyrocketing and the failure of the council to undertake any kind of long term planning for the area, this opportunity may have passed us by forever. It would also be nice if they took more care with planning decisions which has meant our largest and most important piece of open space - Piccadilly Gardens is aflicted by the worst design solution in the city. Ill conceived and poorly excecuted. Clearly there is plenty of hard, careful work to be done.


So! Thoughts, ideas, opportunities please! We all want an uplifting, liveable city to be proud of. Urban design considerations and particularly the issue of quality open spaces urgently needs to be addressed if Manchester is to continue to attract people and prosper.
 

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I think St Peter's Square could be done better. When Elisabeth House is demolished -- a building that so obviously degrades the rest of the square -- perhaps they should incorporate that space into a wider plan. And if the bus stops were eliminated in front of the library, it would reduce pollution in the area and mean that Central Library, the Town Hall and Town Hall extension wouldn't need to be cleaned so often.

The only major problem with a major revelopment of St Peter's Square, though, is how it would fit round the Metrolink. In hindsight, maybe the Metrolink should originally have somehow been routed down Portland Street on its way to Piccadilly, rather than cutting St Peter's Square in two, but I guess that would be too much of a job to put right.
 

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My view is this: hang on to every scrap of open space you can. Do not sell it off for building on. Not unless somebody's going to pay you a fortune because they're going to build high rise so you can buy more and better land elsewhere. If you don't own the land but an application comes in that covers every inch of ground, turn it down. It's more likely to be low rise, and they'll tell you it's world class, but don't be taken in, just refuse it. Once it's gone you'll never get it back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I think the point about St Peter's square is a good one. Actually it is a really sizeable space. I like the gardens there even if they are under used but the area is not really seen as anywhere to linger probably because there is no substantial unbroken open space, and its seen more as a through route to Piccadilly Gardens. Its a nice space and it works well but I'd hesitate to call it a "square". It could definitely be enhanced and particularly if they encouraged restaurant / bar use on ground floor units there.

Here are a couple of other, recent contributions on other threads......

GAVIN:

I have posted on this issue a couple of times. I say we need to develop several new public squares/piazza's/green spaces.

I would suggest the following:

1. Corporation st from Market Street to Urbis
2. China town car park
3. Canal St to be properly pedestrainised
4. Northern 1/4 NCP to be flattened and new development/ open sapce to replace that car park and the opposing ground level car park.
5. Improvements to the riverside along the Irwell so its possible to walk its entire city centre length
6. Stevenson Square Northern 1/4 to be remodelled.
I'm sure there are others too. Maybe it could have its own thread???

I do like the pedestrainised aspects of Spinningfields though and the footplate of Beetham is actually smaller than the old building. If that were the case for all new builds, we would gradually have a nicer, open yet denser city centre.


ROLYBLING
I totally agree, there is a lack of green spaces in the centre of the city but....don't forget, the Greengate plans include a "Central Park" which apparently will be quite a size.Hopefully it will reddress the balance as there is little green open spaces in Central Manchester
 

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To continue my point.....

I think that a lot of small changes could make a big difference. How many tiny alleyways are there in town? How many dont go anywhere and are little used by vehicles??
The answer is lots.
Look at what has been done elsewhere, especially regeneration schemes in Spain, Girona is a fantastic example.
Pedestrainise these alleyways. If a car/van desperately needs to go down it then they can just like the 'road' infront of the triangle which is used occasionally but is 'invisible' other than the bollards that mark it out.
This would have little impact at each place but would overall make big improvements to the feel of the city.
When your walking around in manchester there are just too many unnecessary junctions. Remove them and you have more time to enjoy your walk and admire the buildings.
Walk up Princess st from Whitworth st to Deansgate on the canal st side. Count how many times you cross tiny roads and think about how many of those roads perform no function whatsoever because they are all parallel to the next one 10m up the road. Ok so the odd van may need to park there to deliver something but removing nearly all of those junctions would make such a differene to the urban environment.
It would be a start. And then we should pedestrainise China Town sqaure and Corporation st but there we are...
 

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And again...

I think the council should start with their own backyard. What is the point of that road inbetween town hall and town hall extension. You cant use it because its got a barrier at one end taking up a lot of space that could be pedestrainised and, bizarrely there is a signalised junction at the other end. What a waste. Delaying traffic flow for no reason. Obviously the pedestrain crossing should be there but the junction is pointless.
We need commitment to pedestrian priority to improve the urban environment in central manchester and soon...
 

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And finally,

heres a good example. Think how dangerous it is to cross from Mosely st to Piccadilly Bus station, infact that whole area is dangerous.
The council is redesigning the road but surely it would have been better to pedestrainise the end of mosley st and send busses down york st and along portland st (where there is already a bus lane). Council would say, cant delay busses as public transport is a priority etc etc... bollocks.
I say, you remove 2 junctions which wil speed up busses and have a time neutral overall effect whilst improving the urban environment and pedestrian saftey, but thats just me.
 

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Mistakes and blunders get made by people who can't see, won't see what they're doing wrong, because they're people who think they know better. The arrogance and stupidity that built 1 Piccadilly will be repeated. That's how architecture is.

Students are fighting proposals to build the five-storey development on one of the largest green spaces on the campus. They held a protest on the site, off Oxford Road, near the junction with Booth Street, where they say an area the size of a football pitch will be lost if the development goes ahead. University bosses say it is part of a £300m plan to redevelop the campus and alternative areas of green land will be provided to compensate for the loss. Irony: The students were also objecting to plans to build a six-floor car park on top of an existing one. The university's Islamic society joined the protest, claiming that their prayer room will be demolished. Student Kate Kirkpatrick said: "I don't think anyone can fail to see the irony of building the environment department on green land. There's a consultation meeting next week in the student reading week when hardly any students will be here."
 

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pedestrainising as much as possible in the city centre would make it more plesent and inviting for us all. Little parks and squares would be great. I wish the city center had more examples of St Anne’s square. I always show off that area to people visiting me from abroad.

 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
There are two things here. 1. The principle of building on a valued open space such as Piccadilly Gardnes and 2. The design of the building that we ended up with (and its relationship to the space and other buildings i.e. urban design).

I myself am not 100% sure I am supportive of the principle of building anything on our biggest and most important open space (Piccadilly Gardens) however if it was a clever design, in terms of its form, materials, massing and so on it could have actually enhanced the space which I would have been all in favour of. As it was, what we ended up with was so hideously out of context we ended up in a lose-lose situation. A poor building on a precious piece of green space. Project Unity is a different kettle of fish as it has been carefully masterplanned and the council are encouraging a pedestrian strategy surrounding enhanced open spaces rather than bits and pieces of unused, poorly defined bits of spare land as we tend to see on campus at present.
 

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Oh I see. This time it's different. It always is. That's architecture for you. It has always had an arrogance, evidenced by meaningless phrases like "out of context" and "poorly defined", and the willingness to flick between "open space" and "spare land" at a whim. It's not different SleepyOne, it's the same. It's why yesterday's buildings are "hideous", and tomorrow's will be too.
 

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I'm suprised the river isn't used as much as it could be, maybe they will capatilse on this more.. but water is always such a strong component to cities, Manchester kind of never really taken that advantage.
 

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Albert Sq, St Annes Sq, Exchange Sq and Cathedral Gardens are all fine public spaces. The city needs far more though. I would love to see the car park in the northern quarter turned into some kind of urban oasis. I also liked Manfans idea of pedestrianising Canal Street. It should be done like has been done with the Cavern Quarter in Liverpool, so you have quality ground but the atmosphere of the place will not be lost. Another good location for a public square would be the ground level car park on Portland Street, next to Chorlton St coach station.
A very hidden public sqaure that I would like to see revitalised is Centenary Sqaure, just behind the buildings opposite town hall. If they demolished just a couple of the buildings opposite the town hall and open it up (plus widening the entrances on the Deansgate side), and lose the car parking element, a nice new pedestrian link would be created to take people from Albert Sq to the new Spinningfields Sq.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I think that's Lincoln Square Accura. Its a great space however could do with some quality landscaping (rather than the concrete flags it has at present) and because of the importance of the built environment to the success of an open space, certainly some of the buildings surrounding it could definitiely be improved.


On of my favourite hidden spaces / gardens is St John's Gardens near Granada Studios. Few people seem to know about it, its well looked after and is always so peaceful - and just a short walk from Deansgate too.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... unfortunately Picc Gardens being one of our biggest spaces is also one of the worst. Politically it might be embarrassing for the council who have spent so much money on it in recent years but I think simply because of the amount of people that pass through the area it is absolutely vital that they continue to invest and improve the space as well as engaging building and land owners to radically re/develop sites that form a backdrop to the square. Such a shame the most prominent backdrops in the Plaza and 1 Picc Gardens are ALSO two of the very worst buildings in the city.
 

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It's hard problem to create green areas due to lack of space but I still think Manchester CC has not taken advantage of or thought properly about planting more trees. Two examples are Spinningfields Square outside the MEN - before it was redeveloped there used to be quite few trees there but none ever got re-planted, so now its just grey and bland. Also there is quite a large space outside the GMEX, plent of space to plant trees and even a fountain or a sculpture of somekind.
I think a perfect place for a little park would be the car park opposite Spirit on Canal Street, but I think it's owned by NCP.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
When your walking around in manchester there are just too many unnecessary junctions. Remove them and you have more time to enjoy your walk and admire the buildings.
Walk up Princess st from Whitworth st to Deansgate on the canal st side. Count how many times you cross tiny roads and think about how many of those roads perform no function whatsoever because they are all parallel to the next one 10m up the road. Ok so the odd van may need to park there to deliver something but removing nearly all of those junctions would make such a differene to the urban environment.
It would be a start. And then we should pedestrainise China Town sqaure and Corporation st but there we are...
That's a really good point. If you notice, that's exactly what they've done on London Road. Not only have they got rid of the central reservation to vastly widen the pavement on the right hand side, heading into town there but they've also brought the road junctions up to pavement level (all be it differentiated it with dark brick) but it makes one hell of a difference to the walk up to Picc Gardens.
 

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I think we all agree that open space in a city is very important. The problem is that the tight grain of the City's historic street and development pattern coupled with high land values makes it impossible for the City Council to create new areas of open space in isolation.
I think that a lot of small changes could make a big difference. How many tiny alleyways are there in town? How many dont go anywhere and are little used by vehicles??
The answer is lots.
Look at what has been done elsewhere, especially regeneration schemes in Spain, Girona is a fantastic example.
To illustrate the point:
Look at the quality of paving, the distinct lack of bollards and barriers, the fact the pavement and road are the same and the height difference is minimal








compare that to the crap we have. Take infront of GMex for example. Although its pedestrain friendly in design theres loads of bollards for no reason./ The road and paved area are different heights and the road is a different coloured brick. Its just over designed as so much of what we have is. theres loads of double yellow lines too in paint that is coming of. I;ve seen double yellow lines done in brick before. That was smart.
 
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