Councillors have formally endorsed a Spatial Regeneration Framework for the district which aims to address the chronic shortage of grade A office space. Tony McDonough reports
A new masterplan that could see up to 2m sq ft of new office space created in Liverpool’s commercial district has secured the approve of the city council cabinet.
Councillors have now formally endorsed a Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) which aims to transform the district, which is currently suffering from a chronic shortage of grade A office space, over the next 15 years.
The Commercial Business District SRF has identified 12 sites as areas for potential expansion in a bid to address the district’s falling supply of grade A office space and enable Liverpool to compete with other UK cities in attracting major companies.
The document was developed by Arup as project lead and town planning consultants, architects and masterplanners shedkm, heritage consultant Rob Burns, and property consultant Worthington Owen and went out to public consultation in the summer.
Liverpool BID Company, which represents more than 800 businesses in the central business district, is fully behind the plan and jointly commissioned the SRF s along with the council. BID chief executive Bill Addy said: “It is fantastic to see further progress being made.
“As our city region’s commercial epicentre, the SRF is essential if we are to compete with other business districts not just in this country but around the world. Engagement during the public consultation period was very encouraging, and it was made clear by the business community that a new masterplan for the area is needed.”
Liverpool’s shortage of grade A space has been a growing problem for several years and the newest office space in the business district is at No 4 St Paul’s Square and 20 Chapel Street but that accommodation is filling up fast.
Liverpool City Council is already involved in a £200m scheme in Pall Mall, with Kier Property and CTP, and has secured planning consent for around 112,000 sq ft of office space in the first phase, along with a new hotel. However, despite reporting “strong interest” from potential occupiers funding for the scheme has yet to be confirmed.
One of the barriers to the creation of new office space in Liverpool is the low level of headline rents, which currently stand at around £21.50 per sq ft. This is the lowest of all the regional office markets in the UK and way behind Manchester at £35 per sq ft and Edinburgh at £36 per sq ft.
Although lower rents can be an incentive to potential occupiers they are a disincentive to developers who are put off by relatively low returns on investment. One way around this problem is for developer to secure a significant pre-let. This issue is also holding back other potential office schemes such as one at Prince Dock Liverpool Waters.
The city council, together with the Liverpool BID Company, and other public and private sector partners, jointly commissioned the SRF with a brief to enhance the vibrancy and attractiveness of the business district.
The commercial district area covers 40 acres of land from Mann Island in the south, heading up to Brook Street and Princes Dock to the north, and taking in areas such as Old Hall Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Tithebarn Street, and the waterfront.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson added: “To be a world class business location a city needs a commercial district that can offer opportunity, flexibility, connectivity and quality – in its buildings and its streets.
“The supply of grade A office space is critical to attracting major investors and jobs and this Spatial Regeneration Framework will underpin our long term vision to deliver that.”