A year ago, we ran a piece about the Met Quarter, and its obviously turbulent tenancy rates. It was a sadly prophetic tale. We worried about Flannels. They’ve gone. We said how Molton Brown was the perfect tenant. They’ve gone. We talked about how the transition from Liverpool ONE to the broken sewers of Whitechapel must be like walking from West to East Berlin, circa 1972. Now the Council is talking about shutting down the Tourist Information Centre here, it’s another vote of no confidence in this shabby stretch of real estate.

Walking through the Met today, it’s even more gap toothed than ever.

Encouragingly, it’s great to see John Johnson’s Spirit of Shankly exhibition breathe life into one of the abandoned retail units. John’s an excellent local photographer, perfectly bringing his passions to life in this closely curated set of images.

“As a photographer and lifelong Liverpool supporter I felt compelled to document those dark days of rule at the hands of Hicks and Gillett and more importantly the subsequent uprising from fellow fans, which would lead to the formation of the Spirit of Shankly, the first independent football supporters’ union in the UK,” Johnson says.

But pop-up shops and temporary exhibitions don’t, sadly, do much to stem the flow of business away from Whitechapel and towards Liverpool ONE.

This week, Anglo Irish Bank announced it was selling its stake in the centre, which it paid £85 million for, four years ago.

But with a quarter of its units empty – and key fashion brands Flannels, Hobbs and Whistles deserting it – it’s hardly the most tempting of investments right now.

We requested an interview with the Met Quarter. They turned us down.

We wanted to chat about the feedback our feature received, talk over their hopes for the future, share our readers’ ideas. Engage with them. They were having none of it. Shame, really, as SevenStreets readers are obviously interested in the mall, as we are – just like those Liverpool fans who cared for their team, in the face of recalcitrant owners, and refused to give in.

It’s our city, after all. And no one wants a black hole in the heart of it. No matter how fancy the lighting sculpture.

Encouragingly, there are four new tenants on the way. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the long climb back to viability.

Spirit of Shankly: The Noise That Refused To Be Dealt With
Until September 2, Upper Floor, Met Quarter

To order prints:www.spiritofshankly.com

  • Sean O’Brien

    Any idea who those four new stores are?

  • Here’s hoping…

    I think it needs a massive re-think.

    It could be a fantastic arcade for arts of all genres,small cinema, comedy club, jazz bars,all type of music, art galleries. The cultural triangle that they did try to create in the baltic area still hasn,’t materialised, so with good investment, this could be the ideal pull that this thru fair needs.

  • James

    It’s the wrong shopping centre in the wrong place. The shops inside cater for them there posh folk, but you have to consider what them there posh folk would have to (and won’t) walk through to get to it.

    The centre is very dependent on the area around it to create a whole experience in order to attract the ‘right types’. but I have to say even if I had the money they’d be the last places I’d want to wander around and shop in owing to the smell of vomit t that pervades the area & the state of the place – it all just doesn’t fit and needs major surgery.

    I rush through the area as quick as I can and I’m only going to Rapid!

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    Agree Here’s Hoping, and no, Sean, as I said, they’re not talking to us! (although, to be fair, they’re still at the legals stage, so probably an announcement will be made soon.) Pains me to say it, but a Tesco express might just be a bitter pill for a greater good there. I could see that fitting into Flannels.

  • Ronnie de Ramper

    “…with good investment”. Now where is that coming from in the foreseeable future?

    The retail sector is an ongoing train crash. Sadly it’s going to get (very much) worse, and for longer than we’d care to contemplate. Liverpool caught up with the retail boom just as the bubble bust. Alas, the MQ is completely busted/. It’ll be moth-balled within two years.

    I’m sufficiently gloomy (that is, informed & realistic) to believe Liverpool One is not wholly secure. The big units are probably OK. But the frothy bits will be blown away over the next few years.

    It’s not hard to see why. An annual £50 mill + is being taken out of local spend for the next four years, possibly longer. And on top of that, those in work will see their spending power decline by 15% while prices rise.

    So no investment really; no retail growth; significant decline in local spending; significant rise in cost of living. Bleak? I’m afraid so. Not surprised MQ won’t talk. Who’d want to chat about this?

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    Retail. I agree. But mixed use? Leisure? Eating? Spa? I think mixing it up is the answer. Even when money’s tight, we still need somewhere to go to drown our sorrows. My feeling is, and has always been, to pamper to the fabled ABC1s in this city is a fool’s errand. And that’s where the Met Quarter got its fingers burned initially. You can’t live by Armani kecks alone.

  • Crab C Nesbitt

    To me it is screaming out to be the new Quiggins. Albeit one in a much tartier building but the number and size of the units lends itself to ecletic, quirky, interesting shops.

  • JMC

    That’s a good one! Don’t know if you’d get the return the owners would want though, but it would definitely make it instantly popular. Maybe if you had more of a market feel in there, with local produce and crafts it would really take off. One thing the city’s short of is good food outlets.

  • Ronnie de Ramper

    The MQ as a mixed, ‘market feel’, populist venue? Yes, indeed. A cross-between Covent Garden & Camden Market perhaps.

    But hasn’t this ‘small unit’, specialist, mixed-up model been tried already – and failed. Remember the initial retail offer in the Albert Dock? That was full of ‘interesting’ clutter. But no one bought anything. Then the rents rose beyond the capacity of the units to service them, and so everything collapsed. Things changed therefore.

    But the MQ doesn’t have the same prospects as the AD. The latter had the conference centre/Arena delivered to its doorstep, supporitng a change of direction towards larger unit bars, eateries etc. But the MQ has had L1 land nearby, a different challenge altogether.

    The trouble is, the city has never in forty years (if I recall correctly) been able to support Bond St style retail, not since the decline of Bold St. And the MQ appeared to appeal, less to the AB affluent than the C2D ‘football wealthy’ and those with ‘alternative’ sources of cash. I generalise of course,but you get my drift.

    So if not for an ABC1 market, and if not a Covent Garden mini-me, then what for the MQ? It’s far from clear to me what market niche would suit the MQ. But please let it not become an emporium for Scouse tacky-ware

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    Wish it could support something like the Manchester Art and Craft Centre. That’s amazing. But not in the city centre (northern quarter), and probably nowhere near as expensive, rent wise. I do think local is the way to go, though. That would be its USP – and is something, I can feel it in the water, that is going to be the next big thing, retail wise.