Salford Quays – From Disused Dockland to Media Melting-Pot
Salford Quays as it is today
Salford Quays, now home to the Imperial War Museum North, Lancashire County Cricket Club, MediaCityUK and a range of prestigious office space, was not always the thriving business district and media melting-pot that we know today.
The story of its transformation began nearly 20 years ago, when in 1984 the site was purchased from the Manchester Ship Canal Company and rebranded Salford Quays by Salford City Council. It was at this point that the sites journey from being a stretch of derelict docks to becoming home to the likes of the BBC, ITV and the Barclaycard truly began.
Built near the end of the Manchester Ship Canal, which was first developed in order to allow ships to bypass the docks of Liverpool, the then Salford Docks was originally opened in 1894 by Queen Victoria. Having grown to be the third busiest port in Britain at its height, the docks began to decline swiftly in the 1970ΓÇÖs before finally closing in 1982 with the loss of around 3,000 jobs.
Salford Dock’s Circa 1900 – Now the site of MediaCityUK
Upon its purchase two years later by Salford City Council, the Salford Quays Development Plan was put forward with the aim of redeveloping the waterside site. A quarter of a century later the transformation of the site is nearly complete, with the disused dockside of industrial Manchester having given way to a model modern waterside development.
On the Salford City Council website they draw a direct comparison between the Salford Quays development and that of LondonΓÇÖs Docklands, highlighting it as a modern and spectacular destination to both visit and conduct business within. Indeed the two sites share architectural similarities, with high rise buildings adorned in tinted glass and cool steel frames jutting out of manmade islands on the waterside.
In the spirit of one-upmanship however Salford City Council do claim that their Salford Quays development is of course ΓÇ£betterΓÇ¥ ΓÇô with the likes of the landmark Lowry Arts Centre highlighted and claims that the site is ΓÇ£the new leisure capital of the north west!ΓÇ¥
MediaCityUK – The new home of 5 BBC departments
Bravado or not, the completion of the MediaCityUK development by 2011 will certainly notch-up a few more bragging points for Salford Quays. Having been built around the needs of the Media industry, the 36-arce site, which will include 700,000 sq. ft. of office space and 250,000 sq. ft. of studio space, has already been confirmed as the new home of five major BBC departments which will relocate from London to the Salford site. Part of a decentralisation by the BBC, the MediaCityUK site will also become the new home of BBC Breakfast ΓÇô the first time a flagship programme of this kind will be located outside of the Capital.
The transformation of the site has also been of great interest to local residents, with the docks that once generated employed for generations of local families having been replaced with a new set of employment opportunities in the offices and retail outlets that help form the Salford Quays site.
This deep rooted connection to both the historic and future role of the site, alongside the excitement generated by those that have seen it grow since its inception in 1984, is shown by the work of local residents such as Mark Whitfield. Mark, who has worked in the office of a computer firm based at the Salford Quays site for 15 years, epitomises this interest having photographical tracked the construction of the MediaCityUK development since day one.
With such a promising future for the site continuing to unfold, the chronicling of such changes underpins the sense of just how important the Salford Quays development has already been for the area and its potential impact upon future generations. Whether this is the businesses that will occupy its office space or the individuals who will work in its caf├⌐s, galleries or shops ΓÇô Salford Quays really has come a long way since 1984.
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