Piccadilly Gardens redesign contest launches to make area more welcoming for all in £25m revamp

Manchester City Council is asking for schemes to transform the well-known city centre area and has a construction budget of around £25m.

Piccadilly Gardens, looking its best here  Credit: ShutterstockPiccadilly Gardens, looking its best here  Credit: Shutterstock
Piccadilly Gardens, looking its best here Credit: Shutterstock

An international design contest to transform a Manchester landmark open space has been launched.

Manchester City Council is inviting teams from around the world to submit their ideas for the renovation of Piccadilly Gardens.

The local authority has a construction budget of around £25m for transforming the 10-acre site.

The council has said previously it wants to create a family-friendly, ‘outstanding open space’ in a part of the city centre which has increasingly become rather tired and not an attractive location to spend time.

What is the design competition and what does the council want?

The council is inviting expressions of interest for rethinking Piccadilly Gardens, an important gateway into the city centre which is one of the first things people see when they arrive in Manchester through Piccadilly train station.

The area covered also includes Mosley Street, Parker Street, the section of Portland Street which runs alongside Piccadilly Gardens and the section of Piccadilly which borders the Gardens.

Piccadilly Gardens is a key interchange for transportPiccadilly Gardens is a key interchange for transport
Piccadilly Gardens is a key interchange for transport

The local authority says the Gardens serve a unique range of functions including being a major route through the city centre, a transport interchange, a space for markets and events, a meeting place and a green space to spend time.

The competition design brief has been shaped by views sought from Manchester, people and businesses in a conversation earlier this year which more than 1,700 residents took part in.

It envisages that Piccadilly will be have strong sense of identity, be welcoming and also celebrate the uniqueness of Manchester and its people.

Piccadilly Gardens is to undergo a revamp following a design contest   Credit: Manchester City CouncilPiccadilly Gardens is to undergo a revamp following a design contest   Credit: Manchester City Council
Piccadilly Gardens is to undergo a revamp following a design contest Credit: Manchester City Council

The council also wants designs to allow for the flexible hosting of events, to incorporate space where children can play and to be completely accessible.

The brief recognises that it is important to the people of Manchester to retain a green space in the centre of the city and calls for planting to encourage biodiversity and improve air quality, while also providing a flexible space which tens of thousands of people can walk through every day.

It is also essential that the design promotes safety and is well lit with clear sightlines, the council said.

In addition, the design will need to retain the existing listed monuments and statues, the Metrolink tramlines and its infrastructure and the existing Pavilion structure.

What has the council said?

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council,said: “Our clear ambition is for the Piccadilly area to be an outstanding public open space – a place that people are talking about for all the right reasons.

“It has huge potential to be a welcoming, flexible space which makes a positive contribution to the life of Manchester.

“The opening of this international design competition is a significant step towards this aspiration.

“We look forward to hearing from some brilliant designers and, once the winner has been chosen, seeking further views from the public.”

What else has been said about Piccadilly Gardens?

When the council first announced in summer that it was going to hold the design contest, Manchester World spoke to urban regeneration expert Wayne Hemingway who has worked on projects in the city’s Northern Quarter.

Wayne HemingwayWayne Hemingway
Wayne Hemingway

Mr Hemingway said then the contest could be a chance to give the area a new identity and improve social spaces in the city, but that the transport needs of the area had to be factored in.

He added the area was not sufficiently people-focused, and contrasted it to an area like Granary Square in Kings Cross in London.

What happens next?

The deadline for urban design and landscape teams to submit their expressions of interest is Monday 10 January, 2022.

Early in the new year, shortlisted candidates will be asked to produce concept design proposals.

Based on these, the shortlist will then be further whittled down with the remaining candidates asked to work up detailed design proposals from which the council’s final design partner will be chosen.

The council also has longer-term aspirations to alter the area by relocating the existing Parker Street bus services.

This, though, relies on suitable alternatives being found.