The “Our Town Hall” project in Manchester has achieved its first milestone with the sign-off of the RIBA Stage 2 Report earlier this month. After an extensive consultation process, Purcell led the collaboration of the Stage 2 Report which was presented to Manchester City Council, detailing progress on the project.
Purcell has worked closely with the council to develop the proposals for the £330 million project which will see the Grade I-listed Manchester Town Hall building repaired, refurbished and partially restored to safeguard it for current and future generations and improve public access. The building, currently closed to enable works to progress, is due to re-open in 2024.
Increasing the accessibility into the building has been a key consideration for the Stage 2 design. Purcell has been developing proposals for improved access to all the building’s entrances and floors for all visitors and staff including people with wheelchairs, walking aids or prams — something not factored into the original Victorian design. This will include new ramps enabling inclusive access to the Town Hall’s main entrances, designed to ensure they complement the building and its surroundings, and new lifts to improve access and movement within the building.
Purcell is committed to delivering social value for the city by maximising employment and training opportunities for Manchester people by taking on local apprentices and hosting design events with students from Manchester School of Architecture.
One aspect of the project which is of interest to local businesses and residents is the outline plan for Albert Square. The proposal will see the square enlarged by around 20 per cent to significantly enhance its role as Manchester’s most important public square and event space.
The proposals for the square, which will be subject to full consultation at the design stage, will involve limiting traffic access and extending the pedestrianised areas. Taxi and bus stops will also be repositioned, subject to consultation, as traffic surveys have shown that fewer than 3,000 vehicles a day use this route and can be readily re-routed. The design of the reconfigured square will also enhance its safety, security and accessibility removing the need for the current concrete barrier around it and offering better infrastructure for major events.
Councillor Bernard Priest, lead member for the Our Town Hall project, said: “We are making significant progress on this ambitious project to safeguard, refurbish and partially restore the iconic Town Hall building while enhancing its surroundings.
“Albert Square is a much-loved public space where Mancunians and visitors come together for a huge range of cultural and civic events. It is, in many ways, the heart of Manchester. These proposals will see it take its place among the very finest international public squares.”
Construction of the square started in 1863, which means that it predates the iconic Town Hall building by five years. Albert Square is the city’s best-loved square and already hosts popular events including the Christmas Markets and Manchester International Festival’s ‘Festival Square.’ In recent years, it has played host to everything from football trophy celebrations to more poignant events such as the moving vigil for the 22 May 2017 Manchester Arena. Works to the square will be scheduled to avoid impacting on these major events wherever possible.