THE worst-kept secret in Manchester has been revealed. The award-winning, never empty, entirely appealing Altrincham Market project is climbing on a tram to open a second market hall in the Mackie Mayor building on Swan Street.
Mackie Mayor will need to differentiate from the Beat Street-type operators
Altrincham Market has been one of the outstanding large scale food successes of the region in the last decade. Now the formula - subject to planning permission - is to be repeated in an almost identical space.
The Mackie Mayor building, from 1858, was built as a meat market within a market complex that for a time was the UK’s largest. It closed in 1974 when the city centre wholesale markets were foolishly moved to Openshaw, depriving the regional core of much vitality. Subsequently, the building has been a shop mobility centre and a skateboard park in a scheme to get ‘the kids’ away from wrecking Cathedral Gardens. That didn't work out very well.
Empty for years, but recently restored by Muse Developments, the building will now mimic the Altrincham model with a central area for communal dining on large tables with the food and drink providers around the edge. It’s expected many of the Altrincham Market stalwarts will get on the tram too including Blackjack Brewery (which runs the pub next door to Mackie Mayor), Honest Crust Pizzas, Tender Cow steaks, Katie’s Cakes, and Reserve Wines, amongst others.
Rumours of new operators such as Lancaster’s utterly charming tea and coffee house J Atkinson & Co as well as chicken specialist Nationale 7 will add to the mix.
Mackie Mayor in decay
It’s a journey of just nine miles from Alty Market to Swan Street, between a previously underexploited centre of a plush small town to the ragged edge of a major city centre. Let’s hope this development will be the key to unlocking the potential of the area north of Swan Street between Rochdale Road and Oldham Road.
There will be a bridge to gap between the operations. For instance, the largely female audience during the middle of the weekdays in Altrincham with their all-terrain 4x4 prams cramming the market aisles will be hard to replicate in an area with fewer traditional nuclear families.
This will be just one of the challenges for Mackie Mayor as it differentiates itself from the established city centre Beat Street-type operators who ride their younger, contemporary, graffiti-art atmospherics like a hipster on a scooter. Altrincham Market is all about broad, mixed-aged appeal for a mature audience who really does not want its ears ripped off by an over-enthusiastic DJ.
Yet Confidential feels there is a huge appetite for an Alty type space in Manchester and is confident of its success. Given the skill of Nick Johnson and team at Market Operations, the operator of Altrincham Market House, Mackie Mayor should thrive.
The development of Mackie Mayor also means another key abandoned building in the city centre is to be rescued. Along with the redevelopment of London Road Fire Station this is very welcome news. Solutions will have to be found for the old market halls on Liverpool Road in Castlefield too, including the Air and Space Gallery of the Museum of Science and Industry when it closes, but for the time being let’s celebrate the prospect of another fine rebirth.