As founding managing director of Baltic Creative CIC in Liverpool, Mark Lawler has been a driving force behind one of the most dynamic regeneration projects in the UK – now he is set to leave. Tony McDonough reports
Baltic Creative CIC managing director Mark Lawler is to leave the organisation for a new life overseas after 12 years helping to spearhead one of the most remarkable regeneration projects in the UK.
Not much more than a decade ago the Baltic Triangle district of Liverpool, just south of the city centre, was a deserted wasteland of old docklands warehouses. Today it is a thriving district of creative and digital businesses as well as bars, restaurants and homes.
Along with Elevator Studios, Baltic Creative CIC kick-started the regeneration of the district which now teems with life. Baltic Creative offers 120,000 sq ft of commercial space and is home to 170 businesses employing around 600 people.
It has provided a catalyst for other ventures including the Cains Brewery site, which now offers a range of leisure and retail outlets. The Baltic’s rebirth has also led to demand for living space, but not without controversy. One project, the £90m Parliament Square with 500 apartments, had to convince people it would not ruin the character of the area.
Baltic Creative’s annual GVA economic output into the Liverpool city region economy currently stands at £16.6m and, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the creative and digital sector was growing two-and-a-half times faster than other business sectors in Merseyside.
Mark, who will depart for a new life overseas with his family in May, said on Monday: “Baltic Creative CIC has been my life for the last 12 years. From a sea of empty warehouses, to a thriving creative and digital community of businesses that are growing, creating value and jobs for the people of Liverpool.
“This job has been the greatest honour and privilege of my working life. I will be eternally grateful to my Board and team who have supported me along the journey. Most importantly, I must thank the businesses that supported and stood by us through an economic crisis and global pandemic.
“They have all been incredible and I wish them every success in the years to come. I am positive Baltic Creative CIC, under new leadership, will go from strength to strength. Everyone involved has my very best.”
At the height of the pandemic Mark spoke to LBN about the challenges of keeping Baltic Creative CIC open and accessible. He said: “There’s no shying away from the fact that it is a remarkably difficult time and every single one of our tenants is facing their own unique set of circumstances.
“For our hospitality occupiers, it is particularly tough, and we are working hard behind the scenes to try to provide support and guidance so that as many businesses as possible can make it through this period.
“But this period has also given people the opportunity to reflect on their businesses. Collaboration is the bedrock of what we do, here. Around 70% of businesses, here, collaborate with each other. They don’t do that because it is a nice thing to do, they do it because it is important to their businesses.”
In later years Mark and his team started to look beyond the Baltic district to the possibility of replicating its success in other parts of the Liverpool city region. It has been working with local authorities with a view to creating 50,000 sq ft of commercial space in Southport and Runcorn as well as continued expansion in the Baltic itself.
Dr Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs, chair of Baltic Creative added: “Mark has done an incredible job in steering Baltic Creative to where it is today. His legacy will no doubt continue to be felt throughout the spaces and communities that have been built here.
“On behalf of the entire board, I wish to extend our thanks and gratitude for Mark’s unwavering commitment over the past 12 years. I wish him the best of luck with this exciting next chapter in his career.
“This change in leadership signals a new chapter for us too. We are looking forward to continuing to develop relationships with our partners that will see the Baltic Creative footprint expand across the region.
“Our passion for Liverpool city region’s digital and creative sector remains the same. We will take care to ensure that the new MD shares those same values.”