£35m The Spine building struggles to attract tenants

Liverpool City Council says its £44m The Spine office building in the Knowledge Quarter is struggling to attract tenants with six floors remaining unoccupied. Tony McDonough reports

The Spine
The Spine at Paddington Village in Liverpool. Picture by Christian Smith


Liverpool City Council opened the £35m The Spine office building in the Knowledge Quarter in May 2021 but two years on six floors of the building remain empty.

It was a pre-let from the Royal College of Physicians, which took 70,000 sq ft across seven of the 14 floors of the 155,000 sq ft building, that allowed The Spine to become a reality. One floor is also occupied by The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust

However, a new report to the city council’s cabinet reveals agents from CBRE and Knight Frank have still not been able to attract tenants for six of the floors at the Paddington Village site, totalling more than 70,000 sq ft.

And it warns that a continuing failure to attract commercial occupiers to The Spine could see future development at Paddington Village “stall”. That could include the proposed £56m HEMISPHERE office scheme.

When The Spine was opened much of the unoccupied space was left in a ‘shell’ condition. This means it was not fitted out with desks, carpets or other amenities. It was felt that potential occupiers would want to fit out to their own specifications.

However, since the pandemic many occupiers are now seeking smaller, more flexible floorplates and this has deterred some from taking space at The Spine.

The report says: “While there have been a number of enquiries made by potential occupiers since completion of the building, there are currently six vacant floors which are being marketed by the council’s appointed letting agents.

“It is critical that the council has a strategy to let these floors to increase the net operating income at The Spine and thereby increase the value of the asset.”

One of the recommendations of the report is that the council spends up to £3.9m on fitting out three of the vacant floors in order to make them more attractive to potential occupiers. Individual floor plate sizes may also be reduced.

It added: “Some recent specific enquiries for The Spine have halted or not progressed, either due to the complexity of the tenant having to undertake a full fit-out and the timescales required, or simply because they wanted smaller, more desk-ready space.”

Click here to read the full cabinet report

Fitted-out space would be leased to Sciontec, the report adds. Sciontec is a property management vehicle owned by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool. It also operates Liverpool Science Park.

Sciontec currently operates two of the floors leased to the RCPs as serviced office space. It has had some success letting this accommodation. In May it secured a letting within digital business bank Cashplus that will see the creation of 150 jobs.

“The current leasing market for commercial property (offices) in Liverpool is challenging,” the report says.

“The council therefore needs to be agile and commercial in order to meet the changing demands and requirements for office space as they arise.”


Image of proposed HEMISPHERE  building in Paddington Village


The council’s strategy to fill the remaining space at The Spine could have a knock-on effect on plans for a second office building, adjacent to the site. 

Projected to cost £56m, HEMISPHERE will be a ‘net zero’ office building offering 120,000 sq ft of office space. It would be the first new-build project for Sciontec.

In the report officers say the risk of not getting the strategy right for the Spine puts future Paddington Village development at risk.

It warns: “To do nothing is not an option. Maintaining the current approach and marketing remaining floors as single open plan floorplates in a shell condition will not accelerate lettings in The Spine.”

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.