“It’s been a very difficult birth,” Falconer Chester Hall’s Managing Director, Adam Hall told SevenStreets.
“Liverpool Planning Authority wanted to keep most of the facades intact, even though they were hardly the most inspiring along the street, and they’d fallen into a seriously bad state of repair,” he adds.
“There’s this perceived notion that ‘if it’s old it must be good’,” Hall says, “and when you work with people who don’t really understand the complexities of urban planning, it can be very frustrating.”
And the opposite is also true. For, ironically, FCH’s new development is at 57-67 Dale Street: the site of the old Spar building (and Matthew’s Office Furniture). The new Spar, relocated to the old HSBC branch, now resides in the striking Bradshaw, Rowse and Harker’s faceted glass and steel building, dating back to 1971.
It’s a building SevenStreets (and Falconer Chester Hall’s Adam Hall) loves: but one which has an uncertain future: “the planning authority would love to get rid of that one!” he says.
Still, despite the twists and turns of this particular planning dance, both client (Belfast based Benmore Developments) and architects are happy.
“We’ve ended up with a workable solution, which retains some original features and facades, and gives us the flexibility to create a 2,500 square foot retail unit, and medium-sized hotel for our client.”
The scheme, which will be built within the boundaries of the city’s World Heritage Site, will include a 123-bed hotel, a 285-space car park and retail unit across the three unused buildings. So we can expect another heated debate, no doubt…
“The hotel will be a three-to-four star major chain,” Hall tells us. “And it will be bringing life into an area of town that’s practically deserted of an evening.”
And the retail unit?
“It will be a metro grocery store, of the type you’re not too happy about,” Hall says. He knows us too well. Although, to be fair, anything that kick-starts this area’s regeneration is no bad thing.
“We’d love to see more commercially focused development around here, but in reality, that’s unlikely to happen, as St Paul’s Square seems to be where that’s all focused at the moment,” Hall says.
Still, with Falconer Chester Hall working on a boutique hotel, Layla – for Iliad, almost directly opposite their 57 Dale Street site (although technically on Sir Thomas Street), maybe Dale Street’s overdue happy ending isn’t so far away after all.
“Not every old building is, by rights, worthy of a stay of execution. You have to look at the overall mix. And we’re confident this development is exactly what this area of town needs,” Hall says, delighted that two years of wrangling has ended in the result he was hoping for.
We bet they’ll be raising a glass in the Vernon Arms tonight, too.