In a project led by Mersey Maritime and Peel L&P, the £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub in Wirral Waters is already attracting interest before work has even started. Tony McDonough reports
Potential occupiers for Liverpool city region’s new £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub (MKH) are already coming forward, one of the project leaders has said.
At the Maritime Exchange, a national conference organised by Mersey Maritime, it was confirmed that the project, within Wirral Waters on Birkenhead’s waterfront, was finally set to become a reality.
The four MKH partners are Mersey Maritime, Peel Land & Property, Wirral Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and aim is to start work on the MKH to begin in summer 2021.
First announced at London Shipping Week six years ago, the MKH project will provide a national base for marine engineering research and development as well as skills training and business accelerator space. It will create 4,000 jobs in its first five years.
The 60,000 sq ft facility would be built around the Grade II-listed 19th century hydraulic tower building, a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, close to the Birkenhead waterfront in Peel Land & Property’s Wirral Waters development.
Addressing the virtual Maritime Exchange conference, Richard Mawdsley, director of Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters project, said the MKH would drive forward skills, innovation decarbonisation and world be “critical” to the city region’s business eco-system.
“It is important to remember that maritime is not just about ships,” he said. “It comprises more than 30 sub-sectors, including manufacturing and professional services. This project will deliver green and inclusive growth.
“Today we are firing the starting pistol for the MKH. We are already in dialogue with a number of organisations who are interested in getting involved and we are saying to others come and be part of this transformational project.”
Praise for the MKH also came from UK Maritime Minister Robert Courts and his predecessor, MP Nusrat Ghani, who both addressed the conference. Mr Courts said:
“Mersey Maritime’s plan for a new Maritime Knowledge Hub here in one of the country’s key maritime regions are absolutely fantastic. As an island nation, the coastal regions around the UK are not only key for the maritime sector, but the nation as a whole.”
And Ms Ghani, a long-time ally of Mersey Maritime who pushed for the MKH while in Government, added: “What is really exciting is that it is going to become a hub for small and medium-sized enterprises as they come up with products and get them to the market. They will ensure that UK maritime is at the cutting edge – whether it is in AI or mitigating our impact on the environment.”
In the last few days Merseyside Pension Fund, advised by CBRE’s Investment Advisory team, has confirmed an £8.5m loan facility to support the development of the first commercial buildings at Wirral Waters. This represents the fourth investment from the Merseyside Pension Fund and is the first to be made outside of Liverpool City Centre. The loan has been provided alongside £4.5m of regional and local government funding.
The loan has been awarded to Peel L&P. It is the second loan that the Merseyside Pension Fund has committed to provide to the group, having financed Merseyside Heat at Liverpool Waters in 2019.
The Wirral Waters loan meets a number of ESG criteria; it will be used to deliver a 30,000 sq ft office building and it will also support the development of a 70,000 sq ft multi-unit manufacturing and logistics project at MEA Park – both on brownfield land.