The Littlewoods scheme is transformational in more ways than one, writes Mark Bousfield, Director of Regeneration and Economy at Liverpool City Council.
Littlewoods looms large. It looms large as we pass it heading into town, heading out of town. It is physically large and literally book ended. Large when mentioned as a proposition and as a missed opportunity.
Its reputation precedes it and its redevelopment inspires excitement in one breath and scepticism in the next.
Its suitors over the last 15 years have imagined it as flats, as a school, as a hotel, a shopping complex, and now as a media and film complex.
I’d like to pick out three themes: strategy, honesty and courage.
The proposal is to create a 250,000 sq ft media and film complex, split in thirds into high-end studios for national operator Time+Space, a media faculty for Liverpool John Moores University and workspace for the creative and digital industries.
It feeds three of Liverpool’s needs: first, our need to crystallise the city’s position in film and TV production. We’re the most filmed city outside London, but need to capture more indoor filming days and more post-production work.
The pathways are all important, with LMJU and its college partners proposing to provide courses from age 16 through to postgraduate courses and professional training. Cities across the country are trying to demonstrate what inclusive growth means: this is a good example.
To reach the approved position took real honesty. It required each of the project partners to compromise on their previous expectations to create a fundable structure. Each of development manager Capital&Centric, anchors Time+Space and potentially LJMU, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Liverpool City Council have looked beyond themselves to create the current approach – and deserve credit for it.
To reach this position also took courage. The Littlewoods Building is extraordinary and difficult.
Phase one, focused on investigation, remediation and design, can offer no certainty that phase two, the actual build, will proceed.