This is the first look at plans to transform the Castlefield Viaduct into an urban park including a secret garden, reception area and event space.
The National Trust has submitted plans to Manchester Council to transform a section of the Grade II listed structure into an urban oasis overlooking the city center and beyond, similar to New York’s famous ‘High Line’.
Built in 1892 by Heenan and Froude, the same engineers who worked on the Blackpool Tower, the viaduct has not been in use for over 50 years.
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Local residents and politicians have supported plans to bring the asset back to life for some time, especially as the downtown population has grown and clamor for green spaces has grown.
According to documents submitted by the National Trust earlier this month, the proposal is to create an accessible and free âraised urban parkâ.
The objective would be to open around half of the 330 m viaduct for a âPhase 1â test between June 2022 and July 2023.
This will give the organizers the opportunity to âexperiment and learnâ which will inform the permanent plans that could be submitted in 2022.
Giving the public the chance to come and see the viaduct and use the event space will also “create a practical focal point for fundraising activities and gain the necessary political and city support”, indicates the application.
A core team from the National Trust will be involved in the management of the site, supported by volunteers.
Visitors will need to pre-book free viaduct tours in groups of 20 with five slots per day, 7 days a week, with some changes for seasonal demand, the app says.
Special events bringing together up to 50 participants will be organized regularly.
Design documents submitted by National Trust show an intention to divide the temporary park into four zones; a reception area, the viaduct as ‘existing’, a secret garden and an event space.
Entrance is via the existing car park gates, accessible either on foot or by the existing stairs or lift.
The proposal is to create an entrance screen wall with graphics on the project.
Visitors would then be greeted by a member of staff in a welcome kiosk and waiting room where they can sit while waiting for their visit to begin.
The reception area will also have a composting toilet bike stand.
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The next section of the viaduct will be kept more or less in its current form so that visitors can see how it was reclaimed by nature (shrubs and plants, including buddleija and wild strawberries, are self-seeded. ) and imagine how the space could be transformed in the future.
This section would have benches and billboards telling the story of the viaduct.
The next area is a “secret garden” with a large number of modular planters and vegetation less than 4m in height.
There would also be wooden platforms to showcase local initiatives and community facilities, possibly including local artwork and the opportunity to provide feedback.
The last area is the event space.
The architects suggest a simple prefabricated building that will fit under the overhead beams, with a glazed front and rear to allow continuous views along the viaduct.
It would also have a green awning and a gravel roof.
If approved, it is hoped that construction of the temporary park could begin in the spring of 2022.
The intention is for the entire urban park and tourist attraction to be completed by summer 2024.
Speaking earlier this year, Duncan Laird, Urban Places Manager at the National Trust, said: âWe are delighted to launch this project to breathe new life into the viaduct, establishing its place in this vibrant part of town.
âOur ambition is to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the health and well-being benefits of green and natural havens on this remarkable heritage structure of the city.
“This seems particularly important in urban areas like Manchester where there is a need for more high quality green space. This project will also help bring people back to the city center and help local businesses recover.”
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