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Ask the Panel: How can Liverpool’s commercial business district be strengthened?

Ask the Panel: What are the key needs to address to strengthen Liverpool’s commercial business district?

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet recently gave the go-ahead for a draft Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) to be drawn up for Liverpool’s commercial business district, in a bid to protect and enhance employment space and position the area to make the most of surrounding regeneration projects. With this in mind, we’re asking business and property experts:

What are the key needs to address in order to strengthen Liverpool’s commercial business district?

Emma Carey | managing partner at MSB Solicitors 

Liverpool’s leisure and residential development sectors are thriving around the commercial district with a number of new bars and restaurants on Castle Street, and Water Street coming back to life with office-to apartments conversions.

It’s great to see new life being breathed into some of our city’s most iconic buildings, but that process has a downside. Liverpool has lost more than one million sq ft of office space over the past couple of years to leisure and residential conversion and that’s a big chunk out of a total of around 7m sq ft.

If we are to attract new occupiers from outside the city and meet demand from firms looking to move within the city then we urgently need more space.

A number of schemes are proposed, including Pall Mall and Princes Dock. These projects need to be brought forward quickly if we want to grow our economy and attract new investors.

 

John Moffat | development director at Capital&Centric 

The creation of an SRF to cover the commercial district is exactly the right step for the council to be taking. These are the issues I hope it addresses:

• Creation of a sense of place for the commercial district, a central space around which development can occur, which draws people in and encourages dwell time and improves the experience of workers.

• Restriction over certain uses, and mediocre architecture which isn’t conducive to the creation of a high quality business environment.

• Due to Permitted Development Rights, it’ll always be more financially beneficial to acquire a building for conversion to residential than a high quality office refurb. Somehow this needs addressing to allow developers who want to create employment space a fair playing field when looking to acquire buildings.

• Creation of a prime commercial zone within which competitive tension can be created and rents can increase. Liverpool’s current stock and pipeline is too widely dispersed to see consistent rent appreciation.

If the above can be achieved then I believe Liverpool’s commercial district can once again begin to thrive.

 

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John Clegg | head of property management at Downing, and a member of the Liverpool BID Commercial District Development Board 

The proposed SRF is an exciting prospect, which promises to have a long-lasting impact on Liverpool’s commercial district.

To maximise the positive effects of this significant investment, several considerations must be made to ensure its impact is meaningful.

The proposals outline plans to guide the supply to meet the growing demand for first-class workspace. Alongside these commercial spaces, it’s also crucial that there’s investment to improve the area’s residential and retail offering. This holistic offer is key to developing thriving commercial communities.

Connectivity is also a key factor to consider, to stimulate growth and investment in the area. Priorities should include ongoing enhancements to digital connectivity, a secure environment and further upgrades to the public realm, with associated improvements to its cleanliness and upkeep.

Striking this balance to create a world-class, competitive business environment within a vibrant neighbourhood will be crucial to the success of Liverpool’s commercial district, creating a diverse and well-connected place to live and work.

Alastair Shepherd | director at Falconer Chester Hall 

For three centuries Liverpool’s business district had an identifiable heart: Castle Street.

The town hall and the Bank of England told us that this was the city’s fulcrum of power. You couldn’t ask for anything more definitive in place-making terms.

Today Castle Street is dominated by leisure and residential uses and, whilst they bring a welcome level of animation and buzz to the business district, I’m left asking ‘where is its new heart?’

The planned office extension to St Paul’s Square should answer that, whilst our project at India Buildings will help reinforce the historic core’s importance as 3,000 new staff move in.

Provision of flexible office space such as Capital&Centric’s Tempest reflect the more fluid nature of work and lifestyle and I hope we’ll see more such schemes.

Living and working in close proximity is more sustainable and extends the ‘hours of animation’, keeping the city vibrant.