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Friday, January 8, 1999 Published at 14:08 GMT


New Manchester virtually complete

Manchester city centre: "It's going to be very different"

The new Manchester city centre is to go on display in a virtual reality exhibition on Saturday - two-and-a-half years after the area was destroyed by the biggest IRA bomb denotated on the British mainland.

The BBC's Sally Williams on the Manchester exhibition
The work of demolishing what remains of the million square feet of shopping space wiped out when the 3,300lb bomb exploded on 15 June 1996 is still under way.

But interest in the new centre has been such that the company responsible for the rebuilding work, the Manchester Millennium Task Force, has created a series of virtual tours to elicit "suggestions and comments" from the public.

According to Chief Executive Howard Bernstein, the "new dynamic framework" for the heart of Manchester will be a more diverse mixture of retail premises, entertainment complexes and pedestrianised public spaces, with the emphasis on promoting "a sense of safety".

"It's going to be very different," he said.

[ image: Home to the largest M&S in the world]
Home to the largest M&S in the world
"One of the key objectives that we assigned ourselves was to improve investment opportunities and to diversify the economy of the city centre so it wouldn't just be a retail core."

The exhibition boasts computer-generated "fly-throughs" of the new Corn Exchange, the new Exchange Square and the centrepiece of Manchester's rebuilt shopping area - the biggest Marks and Spencer store in the world.

In addition, there are photographic exhibits and a massive model of the area under reconstruction.

The last of the demolition work on the old Manchester city centre will be finished this year, with Exchange Square, Cathedral Street, the Corn Exchange and Marks and Spencer open by November 1999.

The Royal Exchange has already opened, while the enormous Printworks Entertainment Centre is slated to be open to the public by early 2000.

The Urbis exhibition - an impressive glass-and-chrome building housing a completely interactive history of Manchester and cities in general - will be completed by the end of next year.

The free exhibition opens on Saturday on the ground floor of Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square, Manchester. For enquiries call 0161 237 9666.

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