Manchester city centre skyline

Manchester’s model to increase city centre living, fast

Whether you know Manchester or not, this is worth a listen – BBC Radio 4 – Manhattan-chester.

20 years ago (around the time I left Manchester…) few people lived in the city centre (Castlefield was about the nearest) yet now the number of residents is expected to reach 100,000 by 2025. The programme takes a look at this rapid growth, mainly since 2011 and the challenges it may pose.

The scale of development (each time I visit) is staggering which is backed up by the referenced crane survey citing nine towers of 25 stories or more that simply didn’t exist three years ago.

It also raises many questions about how we reshape and increase residential developments in our city and town centres. Asking if these new developments are being built for one demographic only – the young professionals – and what happens when they move on and the impact of a downturn with so many of them being ‘buy-to-let’.

It make me wonder:

  • What might happen – in Manchester’s case – to the areas where young professionals previously lived. Will it change those neighbourhoods (like Didsbury and Chorlton) as more migrate to the city centre and how?
  • Is there an opportunity to diversify the new neighbourhoods to be more multi-generational in their make-up or offer mixed facilities that will attract different demographics to them?
  • Will city centre living lose its’ appeal? The young people interviewed mention moving out to the suburbs as they get older, people need to build lives in the centre and stay there for it to be a true neighbourhood. Recent research via City Lab showed that in the US, young people are finding the suburbs less appealing….maybe the same will happen here?
  • Are we seeing a shift in peoples’ attitude to high-rise living? Have we learnt enough lessons from the past that we are building them in areas where they will work better and be of higher quality? Many of the world’s largest cities consist of high rise residential or flats in older low to medium-rise buildings and the UK is perhaps the exception in our preference for houses. Are people starting to recognise the need for density if we are to maintain protected area (such as greenbelt) whilst creating a high volume of new housing?

Are there others UK cities expanding at a relatively fast pace and who is doing it well? Are other places able to access a similar funding/borrowing option to the one talked about by the leader of the council (Manchester’s is specifically linked to the Northern Powerhouse initiative)?

On a side note, there is a lot of ‘oohing and aahing’ on the views from the flats which I would have liked to have seen but alas audio only!