Council leader Sir Richard Leese has described Piccadilly as a part of Manchester that generates “strong opinions”.
There’s no doubt about that.
The tattered bullseye of Manchester fell on hard times many years ago and has stirred intense emotional responses in residents ever since.
The area’s chequered history and dangerous reputation are unbefitting of its privileged position as the gateway to the city centre; with the Gardens in particular being plagued with all manner of problems from petty crime to assault.
But things may finally be about to change; for real this time.
There has been much talk and very little walk surrounding the transformation of Piccadilly so far. But a significant step was taken in late 2020 when construction workers walloped a huge chunk of concrete out of the vilified ‘Berlin Wall‘.
Now, it seems Manchester City Council is keen to keep the ball rolling (and perhaps swinging) – with more development on the way.
This week, council members opened the floor to the public – starting a big conversation about Piccadilly which will help shape design proposals for its future.
For the next eight weeks, Manchester residents can have their own say; being invited to share their experiences of – and aspirations for – the areas of Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly, Mosley Street, Parker Street and Market Street.
Working with landscape architects LDA, the council is looking at different functions – including Piccadilly’s purpose as a route through the city, an interchange for tram and bus passengers, a retail landscape, and an events space.
Through public feedback, the council is hoping to understand the opportunities, challenges and limitations involved in the area, aiming to find a way to “design out” crime in the area.
The Leader of Manchester City Council said that he knew the area “could be better“, but wanted to “understand what people want from the space.”
He stated: “By telling us your experience of the Piccadilly area, including Piccadilly Gardens, you will be helping shape its future.”
Leese also revealed that the council’s ambition was to create a ‘modern Piccadilly area’ with a ‘friendly, lively, public space’.
“We don’t want to turn back the clock to a time when there were far fewer people using the city centre,” he added.
“We need to look to the future, not the past. Nor do we have a completely blank canvas – there are things such as tram lines and statues, and the Pavilion building which we do not own, which we have to work around.
“But we can and will be imaginative and seek to deliver a public space set in a vastly improved streetscape.”
The council will also be hosting a virtual exhibition offering insight on the proposed vision for Piccadilly, which will be available to view online.
The ‘Piccadilly Conversation’ survey is open for eight weeks, until March 21.
Read more on the council website.