Arup will lead the team which will produce a Spatial Regeneration Framework for the area which is suffering a chronic shortage of grade A space. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Council has appointed a team of experts to create a new vision for the city’s commercial district.
Specialist consultancy Arup will lead the team which will produce a Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) that would seek to develop the district further, identify opportunities to attract new commercial investment.
The commercial district’s pipeline of grade A office space, seen as essential to attract new occupiers for out side the city, is drying up with the only remaining premium space at No 4 St Paul’s Suare.
There are plans for large office schemes including Pall Mall, to the rear of Exchange Station, and at Liverpool Waters. However, current grade A rents are seen as too low to attract speculative development.
The volume of good quality secondary space has also been squeezed with the conversion of more than 1m sq ft of former office space to residential or leisure use over the past two years.
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.
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 with a rise in residential and other uses through both new development and under Permitted Development Rights.
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.
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.
Pall Mall is a £200m plan, supported by the city council in partnership with Kier Property and CTP, that will provide 400,000 sqft of new grade A office accommodation but persuading investors to back the scheme remains a challenge.
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.”
Bill Addy, chief executive, Liverpool BID Company, added: “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.”