Are we now officially designating ourselves as a city of hotels, bars, student dens and stag and hen shenanigans? It would appear so, after a story in today’s Echo reveals the city’s office supply is both at an all time low, and that there’s no new developments in the pipeline. Instead, there are more Signature Living hotels, bars and restaurants opening, or planned right in the heart of our already quite tiny Commercial District. The situation has got so bad, business leaders are predicting the knock-on effects of this lack of vision could have repercussions way into the future. But it’s ok. We’ll have padded headboards to soften the blow, right?

In his plea, Ian Steele, at Liverpool office of property consultants Bilfinger GVA, says cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle all have an ‘active development pipeline’, while Liverpool’s has dried up.

Responding to today’s story, SevenStreets reader, businessman Nick Mason wrote to us from the front line. We can’t add much to what he says, so we’ll post it in full. What do you think?

“Attracting new inward investment and encouraging new businesses to come to our city is crucial to every Liverpudlian’s life. Without the new business to generates jobs and local taxes, our schools, infrastructure, and even Liverpool’s national relevance will suffer dramatically, as other northern cities with more dynamic leadership continue to outperform us (Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle in particular).

I regard it as the most important indicator of the metro leaders’ success that they deliver more large-scale office developments, improve transport connectivity and have a defined, targeted approach to bringing new businesses into the city.

What is happening now? The carving out of our business district by endless residential conversion schemes; the complete lack of serious Grade A office space building; and the continued passing up of Liverpool as a commercial destination in favour of cities which are developing their commercial cores and creating a better narrative of their cities as commercial destinations.

Furthermore, Liverpool’s failure to bring to fruition new transport initiatives (contrast Merseytram with Manchester’s Metrolink) means that Liverpool metro areas cannot join up physically, economically – and perhaps more importantly – intellectually in the minds of key decision-makers in an apathetic, south-east centric Government, who fail to see our potential.

We need action in key areas:-

– Most pressingly, a plan for development of the area around Pall Mall / Moorfields station – large-scale speculative office development with involvement of Council and key stakeholders.

– Fostering of digital and creative sectors around Baltic Triangle – a new rail station on Merseyrail at St James, and more space for digital start-ups;

– Better collaboration, particularly between the most central Liverpool, Wirral and Sefton Councils, in engaging with business groups and emphasising Liverpool/ Metro area’s key strengths.

– Transport: opening up of more city centre stations – three are obvious: St James in South, north of Leeds Street in North, and the University/Royal Liverpool precinct area.

Even if all of the above initiatives are not realistic in the short-term, does our leadership have a clear strategy, a 20-year plan, which can bring these changes about? The lack of Grade A office space has been a problem for years, and I have not seen any evidence to show that our leaders and the public are aware of the dire need to rectify this.”

So, with the change of use to many of the Commercial District’s key locations into hotels, we’ve lost almost 700,000 sq ft – with Martins Bank, West Africa House, 8 Water Street, Drury House, Silkhouse Court, India Buildings and Raleigh House now all closed for business it does make you think: can Liverpool survive on canapes and cocktails alone? It’s a reckless gamble, whatever happens.

5 Responses to “Liverpool’s message to Business: Sorry, we’re full.”

  1. I agree that the lack of office space is a problem, but SevenStreets’ angle seems to be that this is an either/or choice – it’s not. We can have hotels, bars etc. along with (re)developing prime office spaces. Better urban planning on the part of the council (with an ear towards the needs of local businessfolk) wouldn’t go amiss.

  2. Don’t know if you are aware of this but two massive buildings, Orleans House and Silkhouse Court, are also up for conversion this year, which would take that 700,000 sq ft upwards even further!

    It’s a massive headache for the small area itself, but the loss of business space is the most intense issue of concern to all of Liverpool on so many fronts. How anyone could dare to show a relaxed attitude over this would be beyond me.

    No one should try to gloss over this issue as if it doesn’t matter or, even worse, try to get away with claiming it’s a good thing. The law causing the problem by making it easier to convert came into effect in 2013. Could a local plan being put in place have protected the commercial district in 2016? What has the city been doing since 2013 to stay ahead of and avoid this problem?

  3. The article is about lack of office space and the corresponding level of commerce. I agree it shouldn’t be an either/or choice, but just about all we are seriously getting at the moment is the “or” of stags/hens, students and hotels. The article clearly talks about the need for balance, stability and maturity in the economy, which is sorely lacking. To visible effect: High unemployment, low earnings, low achievement and low life expectancy. That as a status quo is indefensible.

  4. Simon Jones

    Of course, a property consultant would say that, wouldn’t they? It fails to acknowledge that a) technology is allowing many businesses to work remotely or in smaller clusters and b) much of the business investment is outside the City Centre, I fail to see how some “speculative” office blocks that may never be fully occupied is a solution to the issue.

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