£70m central office scheme

Feb 13 2008 by Tony McDonough, Liverpool Daily Post

MORE than 200,000 sq ft of mainly office space could be created in Liverpool’s central business district as part of a £70m scheme.

Developer Derwent Lodge has signed an agreement with Liverpool Vision and the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) which could lead to the creation of office, leisure and possibly residential space in Moorfields.

Derwent, run by businessman Tony Criss, is also looking to develop two adjacent sites at the same time.

The scheme would feature buildings rising from four storeys up to 17 storeys and a spokesman for Derwent told the Daily Post the company was confident of getting bank funding despite the current credit crunch.

The Moorfields site comprises Cross Keys House (in NWDA’s ownership), a large open space currently used as a surface level car park and a vacant warehouse building, both of which are already in Derwent Lodge’s ownership.

Proposals are at an early stage but it is expected that the site could accommodate a mixed-use development including a new public square.

Under the agreement

Derwent Lodge will work with Liverpool Vision to undertake site investigations, develop a detailed design, achieve planning consent and implement a marketing strategy to identify potential users.

Liverpool Vision chief executive Jim Gill said the delivery of the scheme was probably a couple of years down the line when it is hoped market conditions for funding such schemes will have improved.

He added: “This is a key site and one of the final major development opportunities within the commercial district.

“We are keen to bring forward plans for an office led scheme and, while there is substantial design work and site investigations to undertake, we expect Derwent to submit a planning application later this year.

“It would probably be difficult to deliver something of this size speculatively but it is certainly doable.”

Martin Lloyd, head of property at the NWDA, said: “The signing of this agreement is an important step in redeveloping a key site in Liverpool city centre.

“The agency looks forward to working with our partners to progress plans to further enhance Liverpool’s commercial district.”

Cross Keys House formerly housed a Yates’s Wine Lodge and last summer was turned into a giant art installation by artist Richard Wilson.

The Turning The Place Over installation comprises a 24ft diameter egg-shaped facade which rests on a specially-designed giant rotator and acts as a huge opening and closing “window”, offering glimpses of the interior during its constant cycle during daylight hours.

The artwork, commissioned to celebrate Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture status, will remain in place until the end of this year.

Mr Criss has established a track record of property development in the city. He was involved in the Clocktower scheme on the old Walton Hospital site and the recently opened Hard Days Night Hotel.