THIS WEEK might mark the end of a testing consultation period for the pair, but it seems former-Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs might be in for one last scrap.
The Twentieth Century Society is attempting to block the scheme by seeking a last-minute heritage listing
During an open event at Manchester’s Central Library on Wednesday 19 October, the St Michael’s Partnership - fronted by the footballers-turned-property moguls and backed by Manchester City Council - gave the public one last chance to cast their eye over controversial new plans to erect two bulky, black-clad towers, a luxury hotel and a multi-level plaza just metres from listed buildings including Manchester Town Hall and Central Library.
Following the final consultation, plans for the £140m Make Architects-designed scheme – which include the demolition of the Bootle Street Police Station (1937), the Reformed Synagogue (1953) and the Sir Ralph Abercromby Pub (one of two remaining witnesses to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819) – will be put forward to the council.
St Michael's Upper Square
The two towers of 31 and 21 storeys will cast a shadow over Albert Square
Launching St Michael’s in July, alongside partners from Singaporean-based Rowsley and the Beijing Construction Engineering Group, Neville said: “Our vision is to deliver the biggest statement in architecture and development that Manchester has seen in modern times.”
However, following ‘great concerns’ expressed by Historic England, numerous comments and articles on this site (which led to our removal from one meeting), a 4400-signature petition, and disquiet amongst the public, officials and fellow developers, it appears the partnership’s plans could yet be derailed as another heritage group wades into the row.
The Twentieth Century Society – a body founded in 1979 in order to ‘safeguard the heritage of architecture and design in Britain from 1914 onwards’ – is attempting to block the St Michael’s scheme by seeking an urgent heritage listing for the Reformed Synagogue.
In the unlikely event that listing status was granted, the demolition of the synagogue could not go ahead and the overall scheme halted.
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Following the bombing of the Cheetham Hill synagogue during the blitz of Manchester in 1941, compensation from the War Damage Commission allowed the congregation to purchase the current site on Jackson’s Row and build a new synagogue designed by Eric Levy and Peter Cummings and opened in 1953.
The Pevsner Architectural Guide to Manchester details how the synagogue’s ground floor windows boast ‘unusual figurative stained glass by C. Lightfoot of Manchester, to designs by John Bradshaw’.
The doomed synagogue
Twentieth Century Society advisor, Tess Pinto, said: “The plans will not only sweep away two fine twentieth-century buildings but will also have a devastating impact on the neighbouring conservation area.
“They show no consideration to Manchester’s special sense of place that one would expect from two football stars who made their careers and built their lives in the city.
“There is a real paucity of non-Christian places of worship currently protected by listing in the country. In a context where there are ever declining examples of the twentieth-century architectural heritage of British Jewry, we believe the Manchester Reform Synagogue would make a worthy addition to the national list.”
This is not an opinion, however, shared by the synagogue itself, which welcomes plans for St Michael's and a brand new synagogue incorporated into the scheme.
Elsewhere, Giggs and Neville continue their reinvention of the nearby grade II listed Stock Exchange Building on Norfolk Street, with plans for a boutique hotel and three restaurants by Michelin-starred chef Michael O'Hare.
Want your say on St Michael's? Head to Manchester's Central Library on Wednesday 19 October between 11am and 7pm to discuss the proposals with members of the project team. More information can also be found at st-michaels.com