Soccer stars score Manchester hotel development approval

In 2015, the first Hotel Football opened in Manchester next to the Manchester United home stadium. (Hotel Football)

Historic England has approved revised plans for a $258-million hotel development in Manchester, backed by former Manchester United soccer players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. 

According to the Daily Mail, the revised plans for the development in the city center were drawn before the developers file a new planning application to Manchester City Council later this summer. The changes include keeping the iconic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub, preserving the Bootle Street police station's facade and constructing one glass tower instead of two skyscrapers. The project will also have residential apartments and offices. 

The St. Michael's development plans were originally rejected by Historic England because the two-tower bronze design would overshadow other nationally-important civic buildings, including the Town Hall and library, and involve the demolition of the Abercromby pub. A petition to save the historic pub garnered thousands of supporters.  

Neville, a former Manchester United and England defender and co-director of Jackson's Row Developments, agreed to the revisions. "On reflection it had flaws," he told the Manchester Evening News. "I wanted to reach for the skies on the first scheme and basically it polarized opinion. We did not shy away from the passionate debate around the original proposals, but instead, embraced it in a positive spirit and addressed some of the issues raised head on."

"The new masterplan still needs work, but it's getting there," Catherine Dewar, North West PD for Historic England, told Daily Mail. "We strongly believe that this extraordinary area of Manchester deserves a thoughtful scheme which responds to its surroundings, contributes to the neighboring streets and welcomes people in. The new proposals are much closer to achieving this and have the potential to enhance the character of the Deansgate/Peter Street conservation area, rather than dominate it, as the previous scheme threatened.” Because the organization "recognizes that the right development on this site could create a better environment for those who live and work in Manchester," Historic England "will continue to advise the developer and council as the plans progress," Dewar added.

A consortium with Jackson's Row Development, Rowsley, Beijing Construction & Engineering Group and Manchester City Council is developing the St. Michael's development. 

In late October 2016, Neville, Giggs and Singapore-based real estate company Rowsley were reportedly considering expanding their Manchester-based Hotel Football as a chain by opening about 25 properties in cities across Asia and Europe with a strong sports scene over the next decade. India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia were possible destinations of the hotel and its Cafe Football chain. In 2015, Peter Lim, the head of Rowsley and owner of Valencia football club, purchased a 75-percent stake in the original Hotel Football property in Manchester for almost $39 million. He led talks with potential business partners to negotiate the expansion of the Football hotel and cafe chain.