A LOCAL team of regeneration experts have been appointed to create a new vision for the future of Liverpool’s commercial district.
Liverpool City Council has appointed a highly experienced team led by Arup to produce a Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) that would seek to develop the district further, identify opportunities to attract new commercial investment, including the large Pall Mall development site, and enhance the connection to wider development opportunities including Peel Land and Property’s £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme.
The SRF would also include the proposing of design guidelines, including a strategy for potential public realm improvements and enhanced connectivity across the Commercial District and to surrounding parts of the City Centre, to create a high quality and world class business environment that reflects its location within the World Heritage Site.
Arup will lead the project providing strategic planning advice, along with shedkm (masterplanners and urban design), Rob Burns (heritage) and Worthington Owen (property).
The district, which covers 40 acres at the northern fringe of the city centre, predominantly consists of professional offices but a rise in residential and other uses through both new development and under Permitted Development Rights has introduced other emerging uses into the area which has impacted on the potential to grow the city economy particularly with regard to supplying Grade A and B office space.
The city council, together with the Commercial District BID and other public and private sector partners, are jointly commissioning the SRF which will give the council’s planning authority the ability to review and determine how different land uses can work together to meet demand and create a vibrant area whilst focusing on commercial growth and quality, enabling Liverpool to compete with the other core cities.
Home to many blue chip and well-known companies, 2017 saw Liverpool’s commercial district office take-up rise by 16% at 349,436 sqft – the highest take up since 2009. But vacant office stock continues to fall and now stands at 958,083 sqft with only 330,439 sqft ready to occupy.
Grade B/B* office space represents the mainstay of the district and in 2017 these offices accounted for 97% of transactions and 97% of total take-up with available Grade A office space now virtually exhausted.
To address this issue the city council is seeking to support a £200m plan to develop a scheme in Pall Mall, with Kier Property and CTP, that will provide 400,000 sqft of new Grade A office space which could deliver up to 2,500 new jobs. A report to this Friday’s cabinet is seeking approval for remediation works to kick start this scheme.
The council is also investing £100m in new road infrastructure at the northern fringe of the district and has recently obtained planning consent to create a new cruise terminal at Princes Dock, which lies within the Commercial District’s boundary with a plan to submit a supporting application for a neighbouring hotel scheme later this year.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “Liverpool’s commercial district is a major engine in the city’s economy and its future growth needs to be proactively managed to maximise its potential.
“The supply of Grade A office space is critical to any successful city centre which is why we are supporting the Pall Mall development to stimulate demand and provide more supply, which will in turn create much needed jobs in the professional sector, we need a long term vision which this Spatial Regeneration Framework will underpin.
“This is a vital piece of work because we all need to ensure the district remains a vital cog in our commercial economy for the next 20 years and I look forward to Arup and the team providing an approach that addresses these challenges in a way that will underpin the future of one our major employment zones.”
Garry Banks, Arup Director and Liverpool Officer Leader, said: “The team we have brought together to deliver this strategically important piece of work have a long and successful track record of working in the city. This project must enable the proactive development of the commercial district in a strategic and cohesive way and must connect the district, not just to emerging areas but to existing neighbourhoods to help the continued enhancement of Liverpool city centre.
“Working with all partners and stakeholders we will deliver an SRF that will support the creation of a vibrant and successful commercial district that can help attract the high value, high skill jobs that will support the city and wider City Region growth objectives.
“Liverpool’s Commercial District is like no other in the UK due to its heritage and world famous waterfront; this SRF will build on this unique proposition.”
Bill Addy, chief executive, Liverpool BID Company, commented: “The Commercial District is a key instrument for growth in the City Region and the BID is making a significant investment of private money into this SRF because the private sector understands the importance of a thriving district bringing sustainable employment in the professional and financial services sectors, supporting the hotels and restaurants of the city.”
Welcoming the consultation, Steve Stuart, Chair of the Professional & Business Services Board for Liverpool City Region LEP, said: “This Spatial Regeneration Framework offers the opportunity to jointly shape a clear vision to future proof the Commercial District and drive investor confidence in this mixed-use heritage area to retain and attract talent and businesses. It is fantastic to see the Professional and Business Services (PBS) Board working with Liverpool City Council and Liverpool BID Company to address concerns from the private sector on permitted development and the future of the Commercial District. This consultation will further ensure that people and businesses have the opportunity have their say on the future of Liverpool’s business district and how it will sit alongside other areas of development in the city.”
It is envisaged that the first draft of the Commercial District SRF will be produced, in liaison with key stakeholders, by December with public consultation to be held later in the New Year, following cabinet approval, before a final document is submitted to the city council in the early summer.
The city council has recently followed a similar process to masterplans for the Ten Streets Creativity District, Knowledge Quarter Gateway and Mathew Street music quarter.