Piccadilly Gardens is going to change as part of a £25 million overhaul which is currently being worked on by the council — but one part of it will look very similar after work finishes.
That’s because the concrete pavilion, located opposite the bus station and tram stop, is owned privately by Legal and General’s Investment Management firm (LGIM). That means the council doesn’t have the power to change — or demolish — it.
However, Legal and General has agreed to shake up the Gardens’ most noticeable structure. Here, the Manchester Evening News takes a look at what exactly is planned for the Piccadilly Gardens pavilion.
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Why not demolish it?
Legal & General is very clear about why it doesn’t want to knock down the pavilion. It says it’s now part of Manchester’s history, having been installed in 2002 when the Gardens got a facelift for the Commonwealth Games in the city.
“Despite what people think about the concrete ‘wall’, it is already part of the history and heritage of Manchester,” a design and access statement in the planning application for the redesign said. “With nearly 10 years of history, resolving the issues of this area is not as simple as demolishing it.
“Why not make it into something we are proud of? Like we are proud of our music, our culture, our history.”
The problems in Piccadilly Gardens often revolve around addiction, homelessness, and anti-social behaviour — which is why council leaders have said that the upcoming sweeping overhaul of the square won’t solve its ‘people problems’.
(Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
The pavilion also served another role, according to LGIM. “The primary function of the existing Pavilion was to form a barrier both visually and acoustically from the bus and tram interchanges,” a cover letter on their behalf said.
“This remains an important function. The revised pavilion design will still perform its original role but will also facilitate greater permeability and access and increase levels of visibility and natural light. The overall effect will be to create a more legible, safer and attractive route for pedestrians.”
So the pavilion will look different. There will be two immediately obvious changes: the new light installation on the wall, and the removal of the roof.
What’s happening to the pavilion roof?
Currently, the pavilion is a crescent shape with two commercial units in place at either end. Therefore, the pair can be separated by taking off the middle roof section, which is planned by LGIM.
That’s a move supported by police, with a letter of support from a superintendent working in GMP’s city centre division included in the planning application. It says: “LGIM’s proposal to remove the roof of the Pavilion, to allow natural light and create a more open thoroughfare, will reduce the opportunity and means to commit crime and anti-social behaviour.
“GMP fully support LGIM’s proposal to remove the roof and invest further in making Piccadilly Gardens high quality place for all… [as] the pavilion in Piccadilly Gardens has been identified as a specific hotspot with the wider Piccadilly Gardens area.
“It is an ideal place for substance misuse and anti-social behaviour which is demonstrated through incident data at a micro-beat level and observations from officers who state that the area is used as a gathering point, sheltered from the elements and natural surveillance.”
Photos of how the pavilion might look show off a much more open and flowing design. That is part of a push to keep the pavilion ‘an integrated part of the local public realm, and to enhance and improve the site and its environment’, the design statement goes on.
“By removing part of the roof and some of the bulky wall elements, we have improved natural daylight, permeability and access to Piccadilly Gardens,” it adds.
What will the pavilion light installation look like?
The second element of the redesign will be seen from the bus station and tram stop — known as the Parker Street end — which will utilise existing ‘tie holes’ in the concrete wall, created during the casting process.
“We can make use of these, playing on ‘connecting the dots’ to create texture and forms on the surface, giving a nod to the cotton industry that Manchester has been known for,” the statement explains. “This can be from etching, or embedding metal, coloured glass, paint or lighting. We can create forms with the linking lines or through the negative space.”
Images on the planning application show a weave of lights on the wall, with more lightbulbs visible underneath. In the daytime, they will still be switched on, according to the application.
What about the rest of Piccadilly Gardens?
As mentioned, the area is currently being redesigned, with a £25m budget. The latest update came at the end of July, when the council announced LDA Design had won a competition to produce the designs for the new space.
The M.E.N. understands the two parties are currently agreeing timescales for the project, which was supposed to present its designs for a public consultation back in March.
A source has however added that a return to the ‘rose garden’ layout of Piccadilly Gardens’ past is something which ‘cannot’ happen, due to the nature of the square being used as a transport hub, shopping district, protest site, and parkland.
(Image: Manchester Evening News)
They have also suggested that one big idea being examined is the pedestrianisation of Piccadilly, outside the Morrisons store. That would involve relocating a series of bus stops.
The newest information is that the public consultation will come at some point in 2024, but the exact date has not yet been revealed.
You can view the plans for the pavilion online here. LGIM was contacted for comment on this story.