When I first heard that NOMA was coming to Manchester, I began salivating at the thought of the double Michelin stared Nordic restaurant that has been voted best in the world for the last two years, setting up a UK base in our city. So when I heard that the acronym was actually about yet another city centre development I was a little underwhelmed.
NOMA is a city centre regeneration project being fronted by the Co-operative group who hope the new initiative will “herald a new era in the Group’s 150 year relationship with the city”. The first phase of development is the completion of the new £100million Co-op HQ, which is scheduled for completion in September 2012. Further developments will take place during the following 10 to 15 years with the aim of opening up the 20-acre site close to Victoria Station and include a 1million sq ft residential development, 300,000sq ft of retail units, 1.5million sq ft of commercial office space and the unveiling of a four star hotel called Indigo, complete with a Pierre-White restaurant.
In total the project is budgeted to cost £800million and when complete will have completely reshaped the Manchester sky-line. Plans of the development predictably include lots of glass (presumably so that passers-by can see how hard those co-op employees are working) and open spaces for relaxing. Typically, with this being a Co-operative led project, there are lots of enterprising and sustainable initiatives such as green roofs and renewable energy systems.
A whole swath of marketing and publicity cliché has already been released to demonstrate what a fantastic project this would be for the city. “The fabric of a better society”, “something for everyone”, “shared vision…and progressive ambition” and most tiresome of all “North Manchester Gateway” (as if passing through this area of the city will mark the passing from the northern badlands into the civilised cosmopolitan centre).
The city is still in the midst of reshaping itself to accommodate the most recent development of this kind, the 4.6million sq ft Spinningfields site, which after a slow start is now emerging as a popular commercial and leisure area, largely thanks to a juggernaut of a promotion campaign and attracting high profile retail outlets with reduced cost leases.
I hope the new development won’t act as a further lurch towards the gentrification of the city centre, it needs to balance out modern plans and designs with acknowledging and highlighting the historic role of that part of the city in shaping what Manchester is today. In 1870, Richard Arkwright undertook a project of similar scale on the site and constructed his first cotton mill, presumably the employees didn’t need a wall of glass to evidence the extent of their labour.