After our Lime Street post last week, we spent some time with developers, Neptune. It’s clear to us that they want to do the right thing. It’s clear that the street is something of a poisoned chalice – having been left to rot by successive absent landlords, failed schemes, recession-thwarted new beginnings and dithering councils.

We know, too, that what we’ve been presented with is, already, streets ahead of the horror that is the Skelhorne Street student gulag.

limestreetOn closer inspection, we can see some merit: the podium entrance onto Skelhorne Street, leading to a walkway that adds animation, and retail, to a new cut-through between Lime and Bolton Street. We can see the logic in a mid-market hotel here, too. And the ABC plans – to turn the building into a music venue/TV studios – look terrific.

But Neptune told us that, they too, think the Lime Street facade needs work. The sticking point is – how much? We think they need to start again. They think it needs tweaks. This, we fear, is the Big Problem. We think store fronts should offer a visual clue to what lies beneath. Entice us in with blade signs, canopies, awnings, character.

And we’re not the only ones. On seeing the plans, We Make Places put a call out to seven local design studios, to see if they couldn’t come up with a vision that inspires us more than the current wall of brick that, to us, looks like an extension to an art gallery, rather than a new, complete street.

We-Make-Places-Lime-St-ELEVATION-695x204Kate Stewart from We Make Places, agrees: “For me, individual streets need to be legible; there’s a theory that you need to see something different every six to eight metres in order to stimulate your brain via your optic nerves,” she says.

That’s not, currently, on the cards for Lime Street. The scheme’s ‘big idea’ is to replicate the Lime Street cuttings – those great, striated cliffs of sandstone you burrow through to reach the city. No-one loves this dramatic approach more than us. But a stygian railway siding does not a liveable street make. And it’s this whole, unnecessary architectural conceit that stymies the entire scheme. Drop it, please.

north-overall-view-crop-300x200“After seeing the designs published last week and reading some of the comments coming out, I was driving back through the city and was paying particular attention to the streetscapes you can see from the ground. The ones that work tell a story, and this includes Lime Street as it stands,” Stewart adds. “Their rooftops are not a straight line and there is a huge variation in style and materials used. We know where we are in streets like these.”

This type of street is present in every great city. These are the streets that make our cities places to remember. To love. “It’s important to keep this sense of scale,” Stewart adds. “For years I have been quoting the same point you made in your article on Lime Street last week – that Liverpool ONE commissioned around 30 different architects to do just over 30 buildings and in the future that development will look like something that happened organically. That’s a great approach to development. We need to see the stories not have them wiped out. If we need to make new stories that’s fine, but they need to be individual and have character.”

Somewhat disingenuously, although perhaps not surprisingly, Councillor Nick Small attempted to obfuscate the issue by saying we’d posted the wrong CGIs. Actually, the CGIs did go through a further iteration – but only to include minor, hardly-noticable tweaks to the scheme. This is the sort of pedantic political point scoring that shows how cynical certain councillors have become. Holding the city to ransom when they should be engaged in debate. To all intents and purposes, the scheme we showed remains the scheme that stands.

Each design and architecture practice invited to contribute by We Make Places is a highly talented micro-business based in Liverpool, each with a deep understanding and passion for our city. Together, these seven schemes create a single street – of variety in height, width, texture and rhythm. In other words, they make a street. Not a building – which is, currently, what we’re presented with.

“Our proposal is not an ‘alternative proposal’ intended to replace the Neptune scheme,” adds Different Studios’ Steve Threlfall, who co-ordinated the project.

“This is our open invitation to the people involved in decision making to consider a different process in the regeneration of our city. This is not to be read as ‘which architectural solution do you prefer?’, but points out that by working with the city’s community, one of our key streets could be amazing, long into the future.”

The Proposals

lime-street-plot-1-1503133-1024x465Plot 1: Howard Miller Designs – Art Hotel –

A budget hotel, each room themed and decorated by an artist or designer. A rolling programme of commissions ensures a unique stay every time you visit and celebrates Liverpool’s creative community.

lime-street-plot-2-layouts-04-1024x910Plot 2: Architectural Emporium – Cat Emporium –

Cat welfare centre, with vet practice and feline cafe and playground, where visitors can hang out with cats. This recognises the growing residential population in the city centre unable to keep pets, whether due to density of space or lifestyle.

lime-street-plot-3-exterior1Plot 3: Different – Kingpin Bowling & Jazz

A ten-pin bowling alley with a difference, offering live jazz and great food, a base for a growing local jazz scene and a destination within the international jazz touring circuit.

plot4-3-1024x464Plot 4: FGA – The Racquet Stack Sports Club –

A sports facility and club, with gym, offering coaching for tennis, badminton and squash, improving health and fitness for both city dwellers and visitors.

lime-street-plot-5-photoshop-sketch-1024x885Plot 5: Reshaped Landscape Architects – The Futurist

A lush internal winter garden, offering a child-friendly place to play, meet, and relax, within the backdrop of the remains of the Futurist Cinema. A new internal structure provides band rehearsal space and the central atrium features a performance space, music shop and independent retail pop-ups and small units.

Plot 6: Parkside Building Design – Happen

A city centre making space that allows people to collaborate, exchange ideas, innovate, make stuff and make a living. Whether working on a product idea or carrying out some DIY due to lack of space back home, this will be a productive, social space. The building accommodates the whole design and making process with ground floor sales and exhibition area (top pic).

Screen-Shot-2015-03-15-at-22.40.54-1024x805Plot 7: mBed Architects – Learn:Live:Love Liverpool

Based within a 9-storey landmark adjacent to Lime Street station, Learn:Live:Love Liverpool, offers an information gateway for visitors to Liverpool. Facilities include events booking, transport info, locally produced gifts, bike hire and tours, left luggage & pop-up food stalls. Upper floors provide a budget capsule hotel and augmented reality learning/info space centred on the city.

We, SevenStreets, know that Neptune has to make the numbers stack up. That not all of these schemes are, really, designed to go the distance. That, maybe, the end is nigh for the crumbling bulk of the Futurist (shameful though that is). And that Costa Coffee is inevitably going to sneak in. We can live with this. But these schemes do offer something tangible: a strong argument against the homogeneity and blandness currently on offer. A chance for the street to celebrate a sense of place: a place we can call home.

We really hope architects Broadway Malyan listen to the city. We, the people of Liverpool, should be the city’s aesthetic gatekeepers. Because we know of old what happens when we leave those decisions to councillors and developers alone.

12 Responses to “Lime Street: Seven Alternative Routes to its Future”

  1. This is genuinely the best thing Seven Streets has done. hats off the Kate and Steve for pushing this too; Lime St is not a “problem” that needs “solving”, but a genuine opportunity to creatd something new. Yes, developers need to make money, but can they do this whilst bringing new life?

  2. This is great. Top marks for Seven Streets for pushing this – and I noted the angry Labour councillors tweets all weekend. You must be doing something right if you’ve rattled their cages. Some great designs here. Not sure about the cat one though 😉

  3. bornagainst

    “We, SevenStreets, know that Neptune has to make the numbers stack up.”

    This must surely be the crunch. Student flats, flats in general and cheap/mid retail outlets. That’s where people seem to believe the money is (at least until the student flats bubble bursts). It’ll be fucking ugly, but the rent will keep coming in.

    How does a cat rescue or winter garden possibly compete / pay it’s way?

    Good to see people fighting for something better though.

  4. david_lloyd

    Yes, agreed. I don’t disagree with the student flat part of the scheme – it’s a fairly competent design (nice brickwork!) I do, however, think retail rent will follow if the Lime Street facade looks more interesting than it does at present.

  5. Michael

    The Lime Street plans are just an expression of a mindset that’s holding this city back. it’s all about lowest possible design for highest possible yield per sq foot. So things like beauty and character are never going to get a look in. The problem is finding the sweet spot between build cost and return on investment. Can it be found in a form that is better than what Neptune is offering? Of course it can. Is there the desire to make it happen? Unlikely, not if the council are putting their weight behind this plan. I feel that the writing is already on the brick wall.

  6. Gerry Proctor

    Wonderful conversation with Neptune as well as Kate and Steve looking at further possibilities. At last someone talking with and getting ideas from us citizens. I simply wish that people with responsibility for creating our city-scape sought ideas and gathered feelings first! Together we can do better. Interesting project announced about the importance of beauty in public spaces:

    Let’s all try and make Lime Street BEAUTIFUL!

  7. Dog man

    Some other (Labour) Councillors and the Mayor himself openly showed concern about the scheme. But that wouldn’t fit with 7 Streets desire to be anti-Council.
    As for the redesigns. Lovely. Except as another comment has remarked, quite how they pay for themselves is another issue. To that end, some are as useless and unwanted as the original plans. A street that cannot support itself will be no use to anyone.

  8. I suppose you could have the bottom two floors as the cat surgery (or whatever), and then ten or so floors above it as student flats. Isn’t it fairly common to have a block of flats with retail space on the bottom?

  9. Your assumption relies on the idea that 7 Streets represents Liverpool. It doesn’t. Only elected politicians do. (That really annoys 7 Streets). That’s difficult to accept but it’s true.

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