Gary Neville has acknowledged there will be further changes to his and Ryan Giggs’ contentious scheme in Manchester, conceding that “we are failing to get our message across”.
Speaking to CN’s sister title AJ at Mipim in Cannes, the footballer-turned-developer also said he was “frustrated” by opposition to the proposed St Michael’s development, which comprises one 31-storey tower and another 21-storey tower near Manchester Town Hall.
“We are looking again at the façade design, the top of the buildings and where they meet the street,” he said.
“There will be no stone left unturned and when we [started off, we] knew full well the scheme would change and adapt. We will continue to make changes.
“We are failing to get our message across and what we are trying to achieve.
“The reaction has been out of proportion [to the scale of the scheme]. There has been a perfect storm and no doubt there has been [more noise in the media] because of us as individuals and the site.”
Backed by Jackson’s Row Developments – the banner used by Neville, fellow former Manchester United star Giggs and business partner Brendan Flood – plans for the scheme were first revealed last summer.
The proposals were submitted to Manchester City Council planners following two major public consultations with local residents, businesses and city stakeholders, which resulted in changing the colour of the towers from black to bronze.
A petition against the scheme, claiming the “huge dark towers” are in “the wrong place”, has received more than 4,000 signatures.
Mr Neville added: “We feel frustrated, but I don’t think it is nimbyism.
“The other day I received a tweet about the Bootle Street and South Mill Street junction and I thought: that’s right.
“We welcome feedback and are humble enough to look at things. The listening has to continue.
“You can’t please everybody – but we [believe in] the site, and the fundamentals [in terms of height and scale] won’t change.
“We would never criticise any other development or architect – developing is a big risk and we welcome everybody’s efforts. But the last six to eight months have felt a bit lonely.”
The hotel, apartment and office scheme has been in the headlines recently due to concerns over the future of the 1950s-built Manchester Reform Synagogue in Jackson’s Row and the nearby neoclassical Bootle Street Police Station.
Both are due to be torn down to make way for the new development and were named on The Twentieth Century Society’s top 10 list of buildings most at risk.
The proposed demolition of the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub in the former St Peter’s Fields, the only building remaining from the time of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, has also provoked local anger.
Explaining the change in colour of the towers, Make Architects principal Ken Shuttleworth said: “In response to the consultation process, the design of the building facade has evolved, including lightening the colour to a softer bronzed aluminium that will change the towers’ appearance in different lights and times of the day and responds to the material tones already in the conservation area.”
As well as a 201-bed, five-star hotel, 159 flats and office space, the proposals feature three new public spaces designed with landscape architect Planit-IE: an entrance square; a 15 m-high ‘Spanish Steps-style’ stairway; and an upper-level covered outdoor garden.
Mr Shuttleworth added: “We have also improved connectivity and accessibility between the lower and upper squares, which has created more active frontage onto St Michael’s Square.”