It’s one of Liverpool’s most beautiful buildings – the equivalent of anything you’d find in New York or Chicago – and it recently doubled for some impressive Soviet HQ in the next Jack Ryan caper – but, recently, India Buildings has been looking very sorry for itself.
It’s not helped that owners – Irish property firm, Green Property, based out of the city, in London (why doesn’t that surprise us?) – have been cautioned for a criminal offence: defacing the fabric of their own building, by the illegal removal of six architectural fittings from the Grade II listed facade.
But it’s inside India Buildings where the beauty really begins: it’s colonnaded 1930’s arcade one of the city’s real 20th Century jewels – built by the city’s own wonderkind, Herbert Rowse.
Of late, the building (once HQ for the prestigious Blue Funnel Line) has been somewhat silenced: with offices largely unlet since the Passport office vacated.
Holts Arcade has been open to the public for over 80 years, with its bronze fronted shops and marble floors, over-sized windows and barrel-vaulted ceilings. But the arcade’s future is uncertain:
“Holts arcade is built on what was Chorley Street,” says Wayne Colquhoun, who’s been running his Art Deco antiques shop for 15 years (and who runs the controversial Liverpool Preservation Trust).
We’ve not always shared Wayne’s somewhat strident preservation views, but we’re right behind him on this one.
“This passageway has actually been a public right of way since 1931 when India Building was completed, and, in fact, for hundreds of years before. It didn’t form part of the original seven streets of Liverpool, but it is still an ancient right of way,” he says.
“We were told the building’s owners wanted to close an entrance, and deny the public the right to wander in and marvel at the beautiful travertine marble arcade, and its exceedingly rare original bronze-fronted shops,” he adds.
For Wayne, and many, the pocket-sized arcade should see real investment, and marketing, to really fulfil its potential as a destination shopping street.
“I want this arcade to be the Burlington Arcade of the north, not languish in depression because it was taken in a job lot by Green Property Group, who’ve stood by while the building has emptied. The owners must be idiots if they can’t see its potential as one of the most elegant shopping arcades in the whole of Britain.”
“When the Passport office closed, it broke my heart – watching as the building went from 3250 people working within it, to around 400 today
Green Property are believed to be looking at using the building for management offices, saying that the arcade has no future for retail with modern malls such as the Met Quarter and Liverpool ONE forcing the city’s retail footfall elsewhere.
It’s true, it’s been a long time since SevenStreets has bought a stamp from the post office here or a nice brass lampstand from Wayne – but we agree with him: this really is a place with a great future ahead of it, if we all support it. Arcades – in Chester, Leeds and Manchester – can offer an atmospheric alternative to the sterile streets of our inner cities.
“It is Grade II listed and we’re trying to upgrade it to Grade II-star, thus protecting the shops,” Wayne says.
To this end, he’s organised a peaceful protest tomorrow – Wednesday – to raise awareness of the arcade’s uncertain future as part of his Save Our Shops (SOS) campaign.
Wayne says that anyone who’s interested can join the 10-minute sit-in tomorrow at 1.30pm.
“This is a short, peaceful protest to show India Buildings’ owner Green Property how much everyone cares about this incredible building.”