In 2017 HMRC said it would move 3,500 staff into the Grade II-listed India Buildings in Liverpool and the site changed hands for a record £125m on the back of the deal. Tony McDonough reports
HMRC staff will begin moving into Liverpool’s revamped India Buildings next week – a year after originally planned.
In 2017, the Government’s customs and revenue service announced a consolidation of its Merseyside office network and said it intended to move around 3,500 staff into the Grade II-listed landmark in Water Street following an £11m refurbishment.
Legal & General (L&G) acquired the site in a record £125m deal in 2018 from Shelborn Asset Management in a deal underpinned by the letting. But the project was subsequently hot with a major delay and, at one point, there was speculation HMRC may pull out.
In September 2019 there was a significant shake-up after it was revealed nearly 400 tonnes of asbestos had been discovered. Shelborn, which had remained the asset manager following the sale to L&G, terminated the contract of the original main contractor, Styles & Wood, and brought in Caddick Construction to finish the job.
HMRC then moved quickly to quash rumours the entire scheme was in jeopardy, saying: “We are aware of these latest developments and are continuing to work with the developer to understand the impacts and achieve a successful outcome. Our priority is to provide the workspaces our people deserve as part of our wider transformation.”
However, the asbestos find pushed back the original plan to start moving in staff in summer 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic also affected the timetable. Now, finally, HMRC staff will begin moving into the building, despite construction work still continuing.
HMRC told LBN: “A small number of staff will start working out of India Buildings from next week to get the building ready for when it opens in July.”
India Buildings was built between 1924 and 1932 as a speculative venture by shipping firm, Blue Funnel Line. Architects Arnold Thornely and Herbert J Rowse won a competition to design the site. It cost £1.25m – equivalent to around £85m today.
The programme of refurbishment across the of commercial space includes complex remedial work, façade repairs and cleaning, as well as renewal of more than 50% of office ceilings, re-lining of the cast iron drainage system, wholesale building services replacement, ornate window refurbishments, new roofs and roof lights.
Caddick is also installing five new lifts and refurbishing eight existing lifts, providing modern office space. HMRC will be the anchor tenant of the refurbished building and its staff will work across 10 floors.