The Grade 2* listed Great Northern Warehouse is now a lively leisure and shopping development with bustling bars, cafes and restaurants and an elegant landscaped public square. But it was once a neglected Victorian landmark and as the architects, planners and builders worked their magic, its fascinating history was uncovered . . .
The Great Northern Warehouse and its environs was historically a transport interchange for the massive volume of goods arriving by rail at Central Station - now Manchester Central - in Manchester.
When building work began in 1885, the railways were booming. In fact, the railways did more to clear Manchester's fever dens than any social legislation. In order to build the Great Northern Warehouse - nine acres of streets, back-to-back houses, foundries, hotels, inns, a burial ground and a school were swept away.
The Warehouse was completed in August 1899 but operations started in July 1898 when only the ground and first floors were complete such was the demand for the goods station. Inside was a spaghetti junction of rail lines with five platforms and twenty five cranes. To facilitate the movement of goods, wagon turntables were incorporated at the end of the lines to allow wagons to be turned round. The Manchester and Salford Junction canal, constructed in 1939, ran under the Warehouse, passing through a specially-built dock.
After several decades of decline in the railways and the fall of the Beeching axe, the Warehouse was closed for good in 1963. In disuse even before then, it effectively lay empty for 50 years before developers Morrison Merlin saw its enormous potential.
After long planning negotiations, work finally began on Great Northern's £100 million metamorphosis in 1998.
Buildings at the Peter Street end of Deansgate were cleared to open up the site and create the smart Great Northern Square Manchester's first purpose design and built public square since the Second World War.
The 10-acre site, right in the heart of the city centre, now boasts smart bars and cosmopolitan cafes like Bake Station, as well as restaurants and shops. The 16-screen AMC megaplex cinema and Virgin Active gym ensure that Great Northern is the place to be, day and night.
And a true sign of the times - instead of stabling for 80 horses there is parking for 1,200