Manchester makes a comeback

From blighted wasteland to sparkling metropolis ... How a forlorn city reinvented itself, by Andrew Saunders.

After a mixed 100 or so years leading up to the millennium, the 21st century has got off to a flying start in Manchester. Fuelled by a canny mix of public money and private enterprise, the famously damp and gloomy sub-Pennine city is now basking in the welcome sunshine of a commercial summer longer and hotter than any since the glory days of the industrial revolution in the late 1700s.

In those distant times it was the rag trade that paid for everything, earning Manchester the nickname Cottonopolis. The city's modern revival is led by the booming housing, property, retail, leisure and professional services sectors, but it's no less impressive for that. It even managed to make a reasonable fist - both financial and critical - of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the kind of submerged rock on which many other municipal vessels have foundered. Proud Mancunians (and there is no other kind) now speak openly of living in the nation's second city, comparing it with Barcelona and Lyons rather than with Leeds or Liverpool.

Since 1996, when the detonation of an IRA lorry bomb parked outside the Arndale shopping centre forced the wholesale reconstruction of the City's commercial district, the pace of change in Manchester has been unrelenting and faster than Wayne Rooney running down a shot on goal. Whole tracts of the centre have been rebuilt in an ultra-modern style - signature buildings such as Urbis, The Bridgewater Hall and 1 Spinningfields Square stamping the glittering hallmark of progress on the face of the city and pointing the way to a bright and shiny future.

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