The future starts here. Today, Joe Anderson, together with Liverpool Vision chief Max Steinberg, release the details of the city’s new Strategic Investment Framework (SIF): the big ideas set to take the city forward for the next 15 years.
To cut to the chase, if the last decade-and-a-bit was all about shiny new buildings, the next one is about joining them all together, and creating a city that’s easier to live in, and easier to love.
It’s regeneration, but with a softer edge. Less ‘big ticket’, more ‘little details’. It’s green spaces, open squares, pedestrianised streets and distinctive neighbourhoods. And, as far as SevenStreets is concerned, it’s a well-thought-out, optimistic and inclusive approach that joins the top of the city (the ‘Knowledge Quarter’ and Georgian Liverpool) with Hope Street, Lime Street with Liverpool ONE, and The Strand to the city.
It creates huge new, European-style piazzas, restricts the bus-clogged artery of Dale Street, and – finally – brings the Baltic home.
It’s no secret that Anderson’s identified a key selection of sectors ripe for driving the city’s economic growth. These, wherever they pop up in the city, are squarely in the Mayor’s crosshairs. Financial and Business Services, Life Sciences, Creative and Digital and Culture and Tourism.
When it comes to changing the shape of the city, don’t expect any Liverpool Two’s or new skyscrapers punching the air. Instead, expect to see cosmetic changes concerned with interconnecting, and joining up the dots.
With movement along the Waterfront interrupted by a combination of incomplete links (between the Albert Dock and Mann Island for instance) the gaps will be closed, new pathways created between the ACC and the Museum of Liverpool, and an ‘all seasons’ route built (whatever that is). Increased use of the water will be encouraged, with an ‘extreme sports’ facility.
The Migration Centre and the new Exhibition Centre are the main additions – together with a permanent home for the cruise turnaround facility.
What’s less clear is when the SIF goes into dream mode, with airy talk of vacant office space in the three graces: “The buildings will be assured a long term viable future and their surroundings will be animated by achieving full occupation, whether for office use as part of the city’s offer of exceptional refurbished floor space in the World Heritage Site located buildings.”
Yes? How? It’s short on details when it comes to stuff like this.
The SIF is at its most radical when it arrives at St George’s Plateau – aiming for nothing less than ‘Liverpool’s Trafalgar Square’. And we can really see this happening. A new signature space for our city’s main muster station.
There’s talk of ‘de-engineering’ the highway network, giving the streets back to the people. It’s a horrible word, but its aim is true: of making the space between Lime Street station and St George’s hall a huge, open city square.
The flyovers will be removed at Hunter Street, and the walls to St John’s Gardens will be taken down, allowing the gardens to spill out onto William Brown Street, and run up to the steps of our refurbished library (with new external exhibition spaces at the rear) and World Museum.
The Central project will create strong links between Lime Street and Church Street, and embed the new Central Village squarely at the heart of a re-energised city centre.
The project will ‘tie in’ key assets including the Cavern Quarter, Met Quarter, St John’s Centre, Clayton Square and Bold Street into a retail offer that, they say, will focus on independent retail, higher quality outlets and buildings. Again, how that’s going to happen, when Merepark has already seen the loss of independent tenants on Bold Street is anyone’s guess.
Williamson Square will lose the ugly building that’s currently home to the LFC store, and a largely pedestrian-friendly Dale Street will link in to the Met Quarter and Cavern Walks.
With LJMU transforming the old sorting office into a gateway building for the city’s learning zones, and investment in Brownlow Hill and Mount Pleasant, the journey between city centre and Knowledge Hill should be a more inspirational one for our lovely students. A new bio-campus and science park will further boost the city’s excellent life sciences research.
There’s even going to be a Knowledge Quarter Gateway adjacent to the Adelphi, a ‘cafe culture’ within the quarter, to encourage people to ‘mix and exchange ideas’ (and we guess that’s why they’re extending the School of Tropical Medicine, too, for those awkward post-exchange moments), public realm investment and provision of ‘green infrastructure’ will create ‘memorable journeys and spaces’. Students eh.
Now largely centred on Old Hall Street and St. Paul’s Square, the Commercial District will see improved links between it and the cluster of offices on Princes dock with a massive super-crossing – and there’s an entirely new district of the city, too. Pumpfields. Sounds a bit filthy, is in fact the area around Pall Mall, ripe for redevelopment. If there are any takers.
The city’s main routes from the top of town to the waterfront will be getting Nicky Hambleton Jones and a team of cosmetic surgeons in to give them a spruce up like they’ve never seen. From Hope Street to Dale Street, Lime Street to The Strand, pop-up parklets, pedestrian rights of way, cycle lanes and recycled seating will create an axis from head to heart (if Knowledge is head and the UNESCO bit is heart. Work with us on this one…).
Honestly, it’s gonna be like Silent Running. Street trees, green roofs and ‘productive landscapes’ will mingle with public realm improvements. The Strand will see teeny breathing spaces in the middle of the road: bushes and benches which form pedestrian ‘bridges’ – major landscape interventions, greening this – let’s face it – hard to love dual carriageway.
Water Street, Dale Street and Lime Street will see major pedestrian-friendly intrusions, new public squares (such as at Cheapside/Dale Street and Moorfields) will create breathing spaces, and walking and cycling will replace public transport and cars as the primary focus for movement. The provision for busses, boldly, will be subservient to these aims. Three cheers for that. Dale Street has become an embarrassment for the city – and a paycheck for Arriva. West Moorfields (the derelict land behind Turning the Place Over) is earmarked for a new development, too.
There’s similar shuffling around of priorities in Hope Street too, with a rabid keenness for us all to rediscover St James Gardens – like we want to hang with EMOs.
The Distinctive Neighbourhoods
Underpinning the city’s economic ambitions, Anderson’s keen to focus on creating a more diverse residential population (he’d better keep an eye out for the rising epidemic of private student halls then), including the provision of housing for families as well as for young and older people. He’s identified six key areas:
They’re all offered a similar mix of promotional activity, to be led by the Community Interest Companies, private sector stakeholders, co-ordinated neighbourhood approaches and ‘infestation’ by small businesses.
In Downtown “the prestige and glamour of Victoria and Dale Streets can be brought back to this area once more… revitalising the streets and spaces and reinvigorating the historic heart of Liverpool.” It’s short on detail as to how, exactly this will be achieved. Closing Kingdom might be a start.
The Ropewalks is a place to “attract young indies, city breakers, students, and creative and cultural businesses…”. Has anyone told Cllr Munby? Or is no-one speaking to him these days?
“It needs to attract more investment and development activity, to accommodate more creative and digital businesses, apartments, and cultural attractions…” it says, adding “Duke Street should be transformed into a thriving city street linking Liverpool One and the Waterfront to the Anglican Cathedral.”
We think this is a bit rich, bearing in mind the troubles this area has seen of late. Mostly due to the Council’s poor process. “A creative vision is needed,” the framework says. Yes, we know. Let us get on with it.
In the Georgian Quarter, get this, “property owners should be encouraged to convert apartments back to single dwellings, and to restore buildings to their former glory”
There truly is nothing new under the sun.
“The Quarter needs a clear vision and plan, engaging with local communities, which enable the registered social providers to buy into a phased regeneration of their stock to open up the area to a more balanced neighbourhood..” it continues in a freeform, arm-wavy kind of way.
The new Framework will, it’s hoped, create a city that’s attractive for visitors, residents and businesses, and a greener, more sustainable city centre.
When it drills down to details it’s encouraging: we approve of the radical overhaul of our streets, of stopping the reliance on busses in the city centre, and of our continued investment in our cultural and knowledge quarters. We’re great at that.
Much of the SIF is vague though – more a wish list than an action plan. There is no clear understanding of where the money will come from. Much of it reads like a letter to the cosmos. But when you’ve no money, whether you’re Mayor of Liverpool or shopping on Amazon, it’s good to have a wish list. It’s a start – a call to arms, and a statement of intent.
There is much to be done. As our feature the other week showed, Liverpool has millions of square feet of empty buildings. And relatively empty pockets.
As the SIF document says, this is merely the next 15 years. It’s not the end of the story. We’ve a long way to travel yet. Good job we’ve got plenty of public realm seating to rest our weary legs on the way.
pics: Liverpool Vision