What’s Happening With Central Village?

That mysterious slice of city real estate, stretching from behind the old Lewis’ to Newington, bordered by Bold and Renshaw Streets – all six acres of it – is being slowly, very slowly, transformed into ‘the village in the city’ by new owners, Merepark. So what can we expect when it opens? A genuine East Village vibe? A refreshing hotch potch of quirky, independent boutiques, markets, delis and bars?

Wouldn’t that be great? The area has recently seen a much needed filip in the shape of the new Bier bar (from where The Old Ropewalks karaoke once rang out), with music programmed by Ladytron’s Daniel Hunt (“At the moment the music is a slightly offbeat northern soul selection I put together,” he tells us, “…and (Jamaican label) studio1 during the day…”)

Liverpool’s Central Village, lewis’s from Diffuse 3D on Vimeo.

We love it. And, in time, the bar will form the outermost edge to the newly planned ‘Newington Square’ development. A far cry from the dusty sidestreet it’s become.

Maybe this is the start of a shift in the Ropewalks’ fortunes. The morning after yet another hideous attack in the area (this time outside Funkybox), where a chap had most of his face bitten off, it’s hard not to hope for an escape route to this warren of increasingly feral streets.  We’re praying that Bier is the start of a new Ropewalks renaissance. And that we can have it to ourselves for a while.

Odd to think, isn’t it, that English Heritage turned down Merepark’s original plans to have a couple of landmark towers in the development. No, they said – we don’t want them to overshadow, and despoil, the historic character of the Ropewalks. Make ‘em smaller.

Really? And mutilation – as long as it’s at street level – is fine? Unfortunately, life isn’t like an artist’s impression: it’s not all happy smiling couples, laughing, weighed down with designer bags, as they leave Subway. The area is in need of help. And fast. Maybe Central Village, by lifting the lid off the pressure cooker a little, will be its salvation.

Sadly, first impressions of Central Village are less homespun and more, well, more Liverpool ONE: the next chapter.

Architecturally, there’s nothing to see here. A split level mall, a brise soleil, a sheer wall of featureless facades coaxed into an optical illusion of interest with angular tetris blocks of alternating colours. Jaunty pilotis, lined up like excessive exclamation marks.  But no-one’s laughing.

Villages don’t look like this. Where’s the vernacular? The local stone? A cultural or historical context? Oh, the water. I guess that’s a nod to its location at least. Take a look at the dreamy simulation (above) and smell the village bustle.

Rumours were floating round that Lewis’s would contain a Liverpool branch of Hard Rock Cafe. They’ve been squashed by the chain – which, to be fair, is in something of a retreat, closing down branches across the country.  Is that a big deal? Not really. Their burgers are good. Er, its walls would be full of Beatles guitars and Dead or Alive wigs. We can cope without it.

Merepark are spending around £200 million developing Lewis’s and the ground to the rear – including the addition of a spruce new waterway, lots of public space and a nice boardwalk. All of which we’re sure will be a positive addition to this end of town.

But we do worry when we see the list of confirmed new tenants. Merepark’s Neal Hunter says:  “The £200m Central Village scheme continues to attract strong interest from potential tenants across the retail and leisure sectors.There are currently a number of potential new tenants in legal and preliminary talks with Merepark. Some of the brands currently signed up to the scheme include anchor tenant ODEON, which will be opening its second cinema complex in the city, Adagio apartment-hotel, Handmade Burger Co, (‘pan-Asian restaurant’) Cosmo, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Prezzo.”

ODEON, fine. The Liverpool ONE branch is something of a war zone on Saturday evenings, so anything to dilute the Judd Apatow brigade is fine with us. The rest? So far, so blah.

We’ve got to wait until 2013 for the development to open. Let’s hope that, in the next 12 months or so, some inspired touches – and not too many me-too chains, really give the city’s independent quarter the help (and cash injection) it needs to thrive. Bold Street is increasingly looking like an island outpost of original and city-grown retail. If Central Village helps shift our Saturday afternoons a little more uptown, we’re very much on side.

But let’s not forget. We’ve already got (and love) Liverpool ONE. We don’t need Liverpool TWO.

www.centralvillageliverpool.com

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be trying to untangle the Ropewalks – speaking to residents, licensees, councillors and traders about their hopes and fears, and plans for the future. And we’d like to hear your views too…

  • James

    I’m sure many Ropewalks residents would be glad for a bit of bland right now.

    I suggest you hunt out Natasha Sleave who is named in this echo article http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2011/08/24/seedy-rotten-zone-blast-after-liverpool-council-approves-albert-dock-chippy-and-ropewalks-bar-in-flats-bid-vote-100252-29291127/2/ after it says the council appear to have just granted permission for a bar to expand into their apartment block!

    I would also like to see councillors made to answer some tough questions. On the one hand the council talks about cumulative impact and claiming to want to do something about how concert square is used, and yet on the other hand they approve the above, and recommend more budget hotels be permitted to open (even by converting an office block into one).

    Does the council intend to do what is necessary and firmly reign in the out of control (and, right now, horrible) “nightlife” in Liverpool? Or does it intend to just turn the whole city over to it, with a who-gives-a-stuff about the quality of life of any residents who’ve foolishly come to live here, and a couldn’t-give-a-damn about any real tourists it drives away? Which is it? Because we deserve to know.

  • Rachel

    Totalyl agree – Liverpool ONE is amazing but we do not need Liverpool TWO – this would be a chance to have a creative/boho centre incorporating and assisting the vibe that is struggling to get out in the ropeworks.

    Also, economic gloom and all that – will all these units really get rented?

  • Mr. Crowley

    Time and time again, I have this funny feeling that the council is run by cynical, venal people at best, or idiots at worst. So many bad decisions, that time and time again go against the common sense of local residents, can’t be a coincidence.

    These are decisions made by people who don’t understand Liverpool, don’t really like Liverpool, and probably don’t even live here!

  • paul

    Comparisons to Liverpool One are inevitable. I’ve kept a close eye on this development through it’s various stages and have become increasingly underwhelmed by it’s insipid approach to architecture and lack of contribution to city life. we still haven’t recovered from the death of Quiggins and this bland airport/retail concourse will do nothing to change that. what we desperately need is a bohemian area- i think Renshaw Street would ideal, the old Rapid buildings are crying out for it.

  • MR Grumpy

    Looks Like Liverpool ONE with tree’s, Totally Uninspiring buildings and yet another bland off the peg
    Mc Development. looks like any other city centre, with such a creative hub of companies working in the city centre how come we allow such architectural decisions that will shape our city centre happen. i fell in love with the spirit of liverpool ten years ago and was proud to show people around my adopted home town. Now i cringe every time i see another building site……..

  • RS Davies

    Service sector development like this is all well and good if there are people to serve. What Liverpool needs are businesses that can generate wealth so that people can spend money in the shops. This smacks too much of Thatcherite economic idiocy that imagined that UK could survive and thrive in the tertiary service sectors. Any guesses quite how successful that’s been for UK (Pls note that current Tory PM is desperately trying to encourage the growth of manufacturing industry – what an about-turn!)
    No doubt someone will say “if they build it people will come”, but for the life of me I cannot see that there’s that capacity in the current market to support another “L1″. The only untapped market left must be North-West Wales, so perhaps the developers will sponsor high speed ferries to link Caernarvon with the Pier Head and label everything “Croeso y Liverpool”.
    It does look a bland off-the-shelf product designed for the major high street retailers, which are not proving to be very profitable at the moment and show no signs of doing better.

  • CCD

    Liverpool has come a long way in just few years but it does need to enhance its unique areas. Think of the Latin quarter in Paris, Translate that into the Bold St, Fleet St and Ropeworks area with a focal point….. fountain or “Irish” steps ….WOW

  • CrunchBackOfCantrilFarm

    Erm…no..Liverpool 2 will soon be the new berth at Royal Seaforth..do you mean Liverpool the third ?

  • CrunchBackOfCantrilFarm

    Oh dear..a lot of little grumpies on here arent we..hey..we are doing good..and our outlook is even better..buck up dudes.

  • tercol

    Dear oh dear, This development advances it’s completion date on a regular basis.
    How many are on the workforce ? Seven or so ?
    Are most of the team stuck in Altrincham ?
    I’d love to report something positive from weekly observations
    but all we seem to see is tarpaulin being removed from Lewis’s
    cleaning operation ! For instance…when will the old Russell Building
    be demolished ? Come on……get a move on and light up the area !!.

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  • Sean Murphy

    This is one NEGATIVE little site isnt it ?.