Jonathan Schofield finds the plans for a 6.5 acre green lung a breath of fresh air
MOST PEOPLE don’t even know it’s there. Skirting the Mancunian Way is 30 acres of land on each side of the River Medlock. The only prominent feature is Mayfield Station perched over a mighty depot. The station closed to any sort of rail traffic more than three decades ago.
The former depot has recently hosted several events and might be familiar to many people, but the remaining acres have been underused and left to rot. Now change is afoot, the site is being cleared. And there's good news.
This will be a very Mancunian, post-industrial, version of something you’d normally expect to find in St Peter’s Square, Rome.
City centre dwellers and visitors are getting the gift of a park at sufficient scale to justify the use of the word ‘park’. For those yearning for more green space in the city core here it comes at last. The park will be 6.5 acres and should be with us by 2022. As a rough gauge of how large this is, take Piccadilly Gardens and strip away the wall, the bus and tram station and imagine a landscaped area from Portland Street to Mosley Street and from Oldham Street to the sixties’ plaza buildings on Parker Street and that’s roughly the area of the riverside park.
Mayfield Partnership looks after 24 acres of the site and is led by developer U+I. The masterplan designers are Studio Egret West. They have done a fine job. It’s the imagination that captivates with their ideas. There’s almost a childlike exuberance. I remember as a kid being asked to create a fantasy city. The Mayfield plans look like the place I drew, aside from the lack of a rocket ship docking area.
The masterplan sweeps from very tall landmark buildings on the west and north of up to 50 storeys to more tall buildings on the east, but in the form of an inverted bow. This dips in the centre over the park. The southern side will be occupied by low rise buildings, ensuring the sun will easily illuminate the new park, unlike many recent schemes with landscaped areas areas. At Mayfield it’s proposed the tall buildings on the west and north, will be more suitable for office and commercial space while those on the south and east will be residential. This is a general principle only as it might be appropriate for a landmark building over the former ticket office of Mayfield Station to become a hotel or flats or a combination of both.
Mayfield Park will offer a range of amenities and a variety of landscaped spaces to encourage different uses and different users, from infants to pensioners, from residents to visitors. There will be garden areas and wilder parts with the River Medlock the focus as it meanders across the site freed from its fierce nineteenth century walls. The higher level of the old depot building will require terraces down to the river which should introduce pleasing height differences in the park
The key ‘heritage asset’ is the old Mayfield Station and this will provide the foundation for those tall buildings on the north while also leaving room at the platform level for a garden embedded in one of the old track wells.
The huge interior of depot, almost the size of two football pitches, will be opened out and provide a range of opportunities. In the masterplan it’s suggested the interior might be used as exhibition or gig space, bars, restaurants and maybe some retail. There will be public route through the interior from the former ticket office area opening out into a broad gantry walkway over the steps and terraces down to the lower area of the park on the south side of the river.
With the south facing brick fill of the depot building recently removed (see the top picture) the splendidly sturdy iron support columns have been fully revealed. The colonnade they form on the south side is very impressive. This feature will also be a very Mancunian, post-industrial, version of something you’d normally expect to find in St Peter’s Square, Rome. In a manner of speaking. It looks set to be glorious, a postcard and a graphic waiting to happen.
The motivating thought behind the park is ‘do it early, do it well, and treasure it’. Given the quality and flair shown in these proposals it’s natural to feel impatient. But in a couple of years or so on sunny days we might be resting on lush lawns watching kids skipping over the River Medlock on stepping stones, with that mighty iron colonnade as a backdrop. Mayfield, which two hundred and fifty years ago, was in sweet countryside famous for its white ‘may’ blossoms on hawthorns, will have flowered again.
THE KEY STATS
The Mayfield Partnership’s long-term plan is to create a £1.1bn mixed-use community over the next 10 years. The wider Mayfield regeneration vision will potentially provide 1,500 homes, 75,000 sqm of office space, a 650-bedroom hotel, retail and leisure space. It is envisaged Mayfield will create more than over 7,500 office, retail, leisure and construction jobs. Alongside the park, the first phase planning application includes an eight-storey commercial office development of 27,000 sqm and a 550-space multi-storey car park on Baring Street.
Consultations on this first phase are taking place at Mayfield Depot, Baring Street, M1 2PY, on Friday 10 May from noon to 7pm and Saturday 11 May from noon to 7pm; Medlock Primary School, Wadeson Road, M13 9UJ, on Friday 17 May 1pm to 4.30pm; Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester City Centre on Saturday 18 May from noon to 5pm.