It is not hard to see that Liverpool’s Commercial District is undergoing a transformation – you only have to walk up Castle Street or around St Paul’s Square to see two areas barely recognisable to how they were just five years ago.
In 2019, the district is entering the next stage of evolution; the first phase of the Pall Mall development has begun, aiming to boost the Commercial District with much needed Grade A office space, Sony’s redevelopment of the former Liverpool Echo building is expected to complete in the first quarter, while Castle Street continues to blossom as a food and leisure destination in its own right, with new restaurants opening at rapid pace.
As the commercial core of the city and certainly one, if not the, main contributors to the city region economy, Liverpool BID Company is leading the charge in managing this change, harnessing the new vitality in the area to create an environment which is attractive to investors, developers and established commercial businesses, and which encourages the creation and growth of new businesses. At the centre of this new chapter is the work the BID is doing through the investment in the Commercial District SRF (Spatial Regeneration Framework), working alongside partners at city council and in the private sector to safeguard the future growth of Commercial District BID for the benefit of levy payers and the wider city region economy. This complements the day-to-day work incorporating everything from the BID Street Rangers and the BID Safety Partnership, making the area cleaner and safer, to the Celebrating Castle Street events and the Mystery Shop programme.
Just last month, the BID published its latest Commercial Office Market Review in partnership with Professional Liverpool, which showed office take-up in the Commercial District during 2018 increased by an impressive 46.8% compared to 2017, accounting for an extra 582,084 sq ft of occupied office space, the highest take-up since records began.
Likewise, 2018 was also a record year for Liverpool City Region as a whole, with 867,586 sq ft being transacted, representing a rise of 32.7% on 2017. This is the seventh year running that take-up has achieved in excess of 500,000 sq ft and shows continued confidence within the region.
The release of the 2018 Office Market Review, now in its 14th edition, comes ahead of MIPIM, the world’s largest property market in Cannes, France, where the BID will present its findings to potential new investors from around the world.
Responding to the report, Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, welcomed the figures, but said there were challenges ahead, particularly the lack of Grade A office space availability, which the BID is addressing.
“It is fantastic to see that Liverpool City Region’s office market continues to prosper, a scenario echoed here in the Commercial District, which recorded a record take-up, said Bill. “This is great news and again shows the Commercial District as the preferred destination of choice in the city region for the professional sector and creative and digital industries.
“However, the report does highlight the challenges we face. The fact that there is now no vacant Grade A office space remaining in the Commercial District is a major concern for the sustainability of the district. But work to reverse this is in play. Our investment in the Commercial District SRF and our participation in MIPIM demonstrate our ongoing commitment in safeguarding the future growth of Commercial District BID for the benefit of our levy payers and wider city economy. It’s also encouraging to see the ambitious vision for the creation of Grade A office stock in Pall Mall now taking a step closer to realisation.
“Driving investment into the area, promoting sustainable employment and its connectivity with other key developments across the city region, such as Liverpool Waters, remains our utmost priority for Commercial District BID over the coming years.”
Andrew Byrne, head of Property Group at Professional Liverpool, the body responsible for collating the data for the Office Market Review, said: “The report once again highlights the challenges faced in the market, with lack of Grade A availability and the limitations which the existing stock has for filling this void. However, for the first time since 2011 we are seeing active development of Grade A offices within the fringe of the city, which is hopefully the start of the next phase of growth within the region. Despite having no Grade A availability, the Commercial District has once again dominated take-up and 2019 is shaping up to be another positive year for the district. However, the refurbished stock is unable to mask the lack of new build for much longer. It is vital we see development within the Commercial District in the not too distant future.”
Liverpool City Council, along with the BID and Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), have instructed a consultant team led by Arup to produce an SRF for the Commercial District to attract new investment and allow planners to guide future development. The team have spent the last three months undertaking consultation with local businesses, interest groups and LCC members to understand the site and identify issues and opportunities. The SRF will establish a vision with fundamental principles including a new identity, improved connectivity, innovative transportation modes and guidance to renew existing stock and protect opportunity plots for future commercial development. The SRF aims to undergo a five-week consultation exercise this year to gauge the thoughts of the general public, local stakeholders and users of the Commercial District.
On the ground, BID levy payers located in the Commercial District speak with confidence in the area and optimism for its future.
Set up in 1988, creative agency, Kaleidoscope, relocated from Rodney Street to Cotton Exchange in 2015, in search of a business reboot and attracted by the choice of office space available in the district, said founder, Mike Edwards.
“The energy, confidence and investment in the Commercial District is a great thing to see growing every day and to be part of,”
“We are on course to have our best year in eight years and have increased our fee income by 46% over the past three years. There have been quite a few new independent bars and restaurants in the area and its proximity to the waterfront and city centre makes it a great place to work and play.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Julie Johnson, chair of the Commercial District BID and business operations partner at Morecrofts Solicitors, also located at Cotton Exchange.
“The business has gone from strength to strength since relocating to the new office four years ago,” said Julie. “We believe this is in part due to us now being more visible to clients for both personal and business services. This prime location means we have a ‘shop front’ on Old Hall Street, alongside many other well respected businesses, particularly in the professional services arena.
“We are a growing business, and being at the heart of the Commercial District is not only beneficial for attracting the best people when it comes to recruiting, it is also excellent for accessibility for clients, with good local transport links for bus, ferry and railway stations. The area itself has a very close knit business community, we can walk out onto Old Hall Street and see several contacts and meet new people. There are also plenty of local cafés, restaurants, bars and leisure opportunities for our people to enjoy either during lunchtimes or after the working day.”
With multiple buildings located in the district – including The Plaza, Cotton Exchange, Queen Insurance Buildings, Exchange Court and Oriel Chambers – Sue Darwell, area property manager at Bruntwood, said the company continues to thrive in the Commercial District.
“We are confidently making significant investments at each of our locations to create modern, vibrant workspaces for businesses and attracting entrepreneurs and business owners across a range of sectors,” said Sue. “We hope to see the district continue to grow through greater inward investment and an expanded leisure and night-time economy to ensure it is truly a great place to live, work and play.”
The positive buzz in the district is being felt across all sectors, noticeably the hospitality businesses around Castle Street, now one of the city’s most popular food destinations.
Dayle O’Hara is relationship marketing manager at City District, owners of Fazenda. Speaking about the Exchange Flags venue, Dayle said:
“Christmas 2018 saw our record sales since we opened the doors in 2013, which is phenomenal. Being in the heart of the Commercial District really places us in the centre of our corporate neighbours, which is great for building relationships and creating a community. Having grown from strength to strength over the previous and current BID term, I feel the Commercial District creates cohesiveness and unifies voices across the different sectors and professional services within it to drive the area forward and create a class A destination for other businesses from outside of the city to come into.”
Looking to the future, Dayle added: “Food and Drink Week and Celebrating Castle Street are key tools in helping us promote our venues, so it would be great to see more of this happening. I would also look at attracting big restaurant brands who are considering moving into the city, helping build the Castle Street and Commercial District brand as a destination. In order to really put ourselves on the map, we also need to look at accessibility during weekends too.”
To view the 2018 Commercial Office Market Review document, please click here: https://www.liverpoolbidcompany.com/record-year-for-office-take-up-in-liverpools-commercial-district-office-market-review-2018-now-available/