Sky bar and 175 rooms for a new Mama Shelter hotel

It started with bonnets and now the former George Henry Lee store is about to get a hat with a roof extension. This might smarten up a prestige site which fell on hard times.

It was in 1853 that George Henry Lee and his brother, Henry Boswell Lee Junior, opened a bonnet warehouse on Basnett Street. The Oakshott family took it over from 1874 then it was the turn of the Selfridge family from 1919. From 1940 to 2008 the store was the most prestigious in the city as part of the John Lewis group. John Lewis as with so many others fled to Liverpool One when the scheme opened. There’s a TK Maxx and various other retailers on the ground floor of the George Henry Lee site presently. 

The architects are Curious, that’s not eccentric or weird, that’s their name

The John Lewis move was entirely logical, their former store was a complicated mess of buildings, awkwardly linked internally in an attempt to create something approaching a logical shopping experience. It never really worked.

The retail site will now boost Liverpool city centre's visitor economy. Landlab Developments want to rationalise the jumbled site with the insertion of a 175-bedroom Accor hotel. Landlab, self-describe, as ‘an international private network of developers, funders, architects and designers who act for major investment funds, hotel groups and property developers. With an emphasis in the United Kingdom and the Middle East we bring hoteliers, property owners, developers and funds together on off market deals.’

It's Liverpool's turn to benefit. 

2023 11 07
The planning documents show how awkward the site is Image: Planning documents

The plan is for Accor to run the scheme through its Mama Shelter brand. This claims to be not only ‘sassy’ but also ‘flamboyant’: a fine double there for the Instagram age. Images from the Shoreditch Mama Shelter hotel show a riot of design that must be the very devil to dust but is uncluttered with a proper reception, concierge service or room service.  

Mama Shelter Shoreditch
Mama Shelter Shoreditch: a very busy and 'sassy' interior Image: Mama Shelter

The approved planning application also states there will be ‘associated internal and external alterations including ground floor bar, restaurant and basement leisure facilities, fourth floor bedroom extension, with new projecting balcony terrace and glazed roof top pergola enclosure as part of sky bar/restaurant at sixth floor level, new windows/doors, replacement fire escape stairs and associated works.’

Sky bars are all the rage at present In Liverpool with bars such as 360 and Liberte so of course there has to be one here. It’s not just sky bars but hotels generally that are all the rage at the present in the city with seemingly every second planning application including some form of guest accommodation. Given Liverpool’s popularity as a tourist destination this isn’t surprising.

2023 11 07 Buxton Crescent
The Ensana Buxton Crescent Hotel, Buxton Image: Ensana

The architects are Curious, that’s not eccentric or weird, that’s their name, which means Mama Shelter in Liverpool will be by Curious. The practice are involved in projects all over place with offices in London, Glasgow and, as with so many architects, dubious Dubai. A bit like Landlab Developments then.

Curious has good form in the region with the fine restoration of the magnificent Cresent Hotel in Buxton which is managed by Ensana Hotels. 

The redevelopment should be in good architectural hands, if at first look they look a little drab on the higher elevations up to the Sky Bar. Still, it's about time that something was finally done on what was a decaying location that deserved better.

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