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By James Heather, Development Director U+I
I think restaurateur Simon Shaw, founder of El Gato Negro, just about hit the nail on the head when he was asked at the Bisnow event what he believes is the key to making a great place.
His answer was simple: ‘It’s about creating somewhere that people come back to’.
I sometimes think that in a world of perpetual change and so many distractions it’s very easy to overlook basic, but crucial elements of what makes us human – our need for air, for space, for food, for love and our need to belong.
As I consider our challenge as we embark on the first phase of the redevelopment of Mayfield, our ambition must be to create THE place that people want to come back to, again and again.
Our vision for Mayfield is for it to be unlike any other place in the city in terms of its beautiful public realm, the new park, and the homes and office buildings which we’ll create here.
But more so, we want Mayfield to have a spirit and a soul, and this is something that we can’t – and wouldn’t ever want to – impose – it has to be natural and organic.
Mayfield will be unquestionably and resolutely Mancunian – and like the city, which has always welcomed all - it will be for everyone.
We have amazing tools to work with –history, heritage, location, and of course the River Medlock – which will be a celebrated feature of the new park – and we must strive to make sure Mancunians love Mayfield.
Of course we want to appeal to the tech workers that will come in their droves to Manchester as its economy continues to power ahead, but we will have not succeeded if families from Ardwick, or kids from the skateboard park just down the road from our site, don’t want to keep coming back to Mayfield, time and again.
While we will strive every day to create the ‘wow’ factor we will be authentic, which is why we are so passionate about working with the existing features of a place – rather than bleaching it and starting again.
When we were bidding to win the project back in 2016 we promised a ‘soulful transformation’ of Mayfield, which is why when we looked at the heritage of this place, it didn’t make any sort of sense to advocate knocking down the Station building or the huge atmospheric railway depot beneath it.
As Richard Upton, our Deputy CEO remarked during his panel session: “It costs a lot of money to create wow and I challenge anyone who walks into the depot and doesn’t say ‘wow’ – so why would we want to lose it?”
Finally, as developers and curators for what is, after all public land, we promise to create a place for people of every background to live, work and play. Mayfield will we be a place to come back to: where it’s OK to run, ride and walk on the grass!