The first ground will be broken today ) as work to transform Manchester’s Albert Square into a world class public space – increasing its size by around 20per cent gets underway.
The improvements are part of the Our Town Hall project to protect the Grade I-listed building and enhance its setting – the biggest heritage project currently taking place in the UK.
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 conractors 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.
He said: “Being part of a project so important to the city of Manchester is something I’m really looking forward to. 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 its 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.”
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.