Grand Plans For Granada Site - And An Apology

Jonathan Schofield on the blueprint for the city centre's south western gateway

Written by  Jonathan Schofield | Follow @ | Wednesday, 14 March 2012 09:08

APOLOGIES dear readers.

We had duff information on Tuesday (13 March) and suggested that Granada House might be demolished. After further investigation instigated by your comments we realise this may not be the case. And apologies to the City Council, ITV and those who compiled the report, our story was wrong.

The official Chief Executive’s report says this about Granada House:

‘The existing main building could be refurbished to Grade B+ standards and complement Spinningfields and the Manchester City Council  Item 10 adjacent new buildings. A comprehensive refurbishment of this building could be delivered in 12– 15 months, as opposed to around 24 months for new build. A refurbished building in this location close to Spinningfields could appeal to different occupier markets in terms of second tier financial and professional service providers, creative media and ICT companies, as well as business support functions.’

So let’s reverse one of the main sentences in our previous story.

Ralph Tubbs’ simple, austere, but measured Granada House, a city landmark since 1962, may well be saved. The Manchester Modernist Society will be pleased.

Ralph Stubbs' 1962 Granada HouseRalph Stubbs' 1962 Granada House

Much of the rest of the story was correct about the 13 acre site being vacated because of the move later this year of ITV to MediaCityUK. A big part of the plans for the ex-Granada Studios area include turning part into a new city centre ‘family neighbourhood’ alongside commercial property. This will involve the potential creation of 5000 jobs directly from the implementation of the full project.

Specifically: ‘A limited number of family friendly independent cafes and restaurants could be  developed and this would help to extend dwell time  during the day and early evening. A similar night-time circuit could link the leisure offer at Spinningfields, the Opera House, the Great John Street Hotel and established food and beverage uses along Liverpool Road.

While: ‘The provision of ancillary amenity facilities in the form of a small cornershop, pharmacy, doctor’s surgery, dentist, crèche, dry cleaner, gym etc. would help to establish the area as a destination and would provide benefits to existing residents in the wider area.’

This is good news if notional at presnet.

But let’s hope the lesson of the well-known ‘family restaurants’ Spinningfields brought in along the River Irwell bank are learnt. Cafe Rouge and the rest are High Street brands and proved inappropriate for the area.

Another look at the added detail in the report makes for interesting reading as a follow-on to our Coronation Street exclusive of January.

‘ITV are considering whether any potential exists to develop a leisure attraction based around the existing Coronation Street set which is commercially viable. This work must be completed before the long-term future of the set can finally be determined. Officers will be consulted on the evaluation of options given the critical importance of ensuring that any proposals are founded upon the need to satisfy key criteria about deliverability and long-term sustainability. The outcome of the work will be reported to the Council and will be used to refine the overall framework.’

There’s a caveat in there over ‘long-term sustainability’. Confidential thinks priority must be given to saving the set, it would become an immense visitor asset. It would be ridiculous if it were demolished – a massive missed opportunity for Manchester’s tourism.

Happily, in the plan, there’s a decent emphasis on public areas for those who would like to see more green and landscaped space around the city centre with ‘ the creation of strong pedestrian links and the introduction of high quality public realm’.

ITV/Granada is moving from its five decades home on the right to the towers of MediaCityUK to the left in the distanceITV/Granada is moving from its five decades home on the right in the middle distance, to the towers of MediaCityUK to the left, in the far distance

There’s also a re-statement of Castlefield’s distinctive and significant heritage. It says one of the aims of redevelopment ‘would be to protect and enhance the character of the Conservation Area and build upon the unique heritage assets which define the special character of Castlefield’.

The Museum of Science and Industry  (MOSI) is critical here. ‘The ITV site is located adjacent to MOSI, one of the North West’s leading tourist destinations: visitor numbers topped 600,000 in 2010. MOSI forecast this will increase to in excess of 1m visitors in 2012.

‘There are clear opportunities to harness this footfall by improving permeability and accessibility between MOSI and the ITV site. The demolition of the redundant studios and other out buildings presents  the opportunity to create routes across the cleared site in the short term.'

The ‘waterside quarter’ idea is a logical one give the River Irwell flows along one side of the 13 acres.

Perhaps planners could not only utilise the River Irwell bank but also original Potato Wharf mini-port of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal as it spilled into the river. The lock at the junction of river and canal on Water Street that still survives here is shown on the photo below.

Where the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal kisses the River IrwellWhere the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal kisses the River Irwell

Overall the report is encouraging, although a little more emphasis on the public realm and a firm commitment to the Corrie set would have been welcome. What it does do is firmly underline the importance of this south western city centre 'gateway'. 

At the same time we appear to be living through the rise and rise of the ‘Community Neighbourhood’. On Monday (12 March) we reported on the Collyhurst/Irk Valley scheme set to build 2,000 new homes.

Now we have this.

The City of Manchester’s population in the 1930s was more than 800,000, now it’s 300k less. The re-population of the city, especially at it’s heart, is very welcome.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield