The first ground will be broken today, Monday 25th October, as work to transform Manchester’s Albert Square into a world class public space – increasing its size by around 20 per cent – gets underway.
They include closing the roads on two sides of the square to traffic and incorporating them as part of the pedestrianised public space.
Only the Princess Street side will remain open to traffic (the fourth side of the square consists of the Town Hall itself.)
This first phase, focused on the area outside the existing square, has been brought forward and will now be completed next year – two years ahead of the original schedule – to minimise the impacts on surrounding businesses and ensure they can benefit from its traffic-free environment more quickly, supporting their recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Work to the remainder of the square, which is currently behind hoardings and housing the site compound for works to the Town Hall, will complete in 2024.
Four local apprentices are being employed by Adana Construction, who are the public realm contractors for the Albert Square element of the project, as part of Our Town Hall’s commitment to creating a lasting skills legacy.
One of them is Jack Bennett, aged 16, from Newton Heath.
“Being part of a project so important to the city of Manchester is something I’m really looking forward to,” he said.
“By working on the transformation of Albert Square I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the different aspects involved in a project like this, both on site and in the office.”
Cllr Bev Craig, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Albert Square is the civic heart of Manchester – a place where people come together to celebrate, socialise and commemorate.
“These works will create a bigger and more flexible events space but also a more pleasant environment and cleaner air all year round.
“We believe that when it’s finished the transformed Albert Square will be one of the finest civic spaces in Europe, helping to create and support good jobs for Manchester people.
“We’re already seeing the first of these benefits, with apprenticeships being created for local people during the construction phase.”
Speaking on behalf of Dutton’s pub in Albert Square, Jacqui Collier, managed house area manager for JW Lees, said: “The last 18 months has been the biggest challenge that the hospitality industry has had to face.
“The investment of Manchester City Council in the Town Hall and Albert Square project will be a great lift for city centre businesses and the people of Manchester.
“The Council have worked with the businesses that are directly affected by the development, have communicated at every stage of the project and reacted quickly to our concerns.
“We look forward to more constructive dialogue over the next two years and beyond, and we are confident that the Town Hall and Albert Square will be a brilliant showpiece for the city of Manchester.”
David Fox, CEO of Tampopo Pan-Asian restaurant on the edge of Albert Square, said: “Tampopo is excited about the next phase of development of The Town Hall project.
“It will be a challenging phase for businesses and customers alike over the coming months, but we are all working together to limit impacts of the works.
“We look forward to the results of the work and to being an integral part of Albert Square’s future.”
The reconfigured square will also enhance safety (removing the need for the previous concrete barrier), open up views, reduce clutter, improve lighting, make the building more accessible and provide better infrastructure for events.
Its expanded area will also give neighbouring food and drink businesses the opportunity to set up continental-style outdoor seating areas.
The square will be resurfaced with beautiful granite sett paving, removing trip hazards while referencing the traditional cobbles, with yorkstone paving providing a route around it.