It wasn’t long before Curtin and the council went their separate ways, of a fashion, but the council suggested that Curtin formalise the association he had formed during his role, a kind of community group, and following this formalisation of the Northern Quarter Association they were offered the chance to develop a regeneration study of the area for £50,000. Members of the association included Wendy Jones (Majolica Works), Ian Croal (Band on the Wall), and Michael Trainor (Pop Empires), amongst others.
By 1994, Liam was also working with a consortium known as The Urbanistics, members of which included a young Ian Simpson (SimpsonHaugh and Partners), Tom Bloxham (Urban Splash), Dominic Sagar (Manchester School of Architecture), and Justin O’Connor (Institute for Popular Culture, Manchester Metropolitan University).
But let's backtrack a little. What had happened to the area in the first place?
In the mid 70s the Arndale Shopping Centre began to open in stages. It was this development that contributed to the downturn of the area around Oldham Street. Today the Arndale Centre is the third largest city centre shopping mall in Europe; when it was built in the 70s it cost £100m. After the IRA bomb, which was detonated from a van just outside, the insurance payouts made the attack the most expensive man-made disaster ever. The redevelopment that followed in the wake of the attack gave Manchester a chance to rebuild and improve the area, but despite this the Arndale still regularly makes the lists of ‘most ugly’ and ‘least loved’.
In 1981 on the roof of the Arndale Manchester City Council set up a housing association which was known to tenants as The Podium though officially it was named Cromford Court. The project attracted quite an interesting mix of people and it became a sought after residential location for party-goers, Hacienda DJs, artists, and independent business owners. At the time only 1,000 people lived in the city centre.
The Cromford Court that stood seemed to mirror the original Cromford Court which came before it - a labyrinth of alleyways, beat clubs, and acid trips which had stood on the site of the Arndale before a compulsory purchase order razed it to the ground.
The 60 rooftops dwellings were eventually demolished in 2003 after many years of uncertainty that had followed in the wake of the 1996 IRA attack. The houses were not a part of the city’s vision of a new Manchester and the bomb had caused them to be considered as structurally unsound.
For all its ideals the rooftop location presented it did have its downfalls - the area was lively and thus the go-to spot for parties which, although not a problem in itself, left the area open to crime as with the Cromford Court that came before.
The Arndale Centre, despite this interesting anomaly on the roof, cast a shadow on Oldham Street and the area which would come to be known as the Northern Quarter and independent business were unable to complete - when they moved out or closed down the area began to decay somewhat.