Jonathan Schofield welcomes work beginning on a classic Liverpool building
Liverpool arguably does the Art Deco style better than any other British city and probably as well as any European city.
That long, figuratively and literally, embarassment off Edge Lane may be on the mend
For instance, there’s the fabulous former terminal building at Speke Airport, now a hotel and former Lewis’s building in the city centre. Better again is the absolutely masterful building close to the Three Graces with perhaps the longest title for any building in the country: George’s Dock Ventilation and Central Station of the Mersey Road Tunnel. This was completed by Liverpool’s genius architect Herbert J Rowse in 1934. The sculpture by Edward C Thompson and George Capstick is stunning including a stylised motorist wearing a strapped leather cap and goggle perched over a tyre can scarcely be bettered for the period.
Then there’s the disaster, the mess, the eyesore that shouldn’t be, of the Littlewoods Building off Edge Lane. This has been empty since 1994 and was partially gutted by a fire in 2012. The fine 260,000 sq ft building was designed by the flamboyant sounding Gerald de Courcy Fraser who was also responsible for Lewis’s.
The vast Art Deco structure was the former home of Littlewoods Pools, the very epicentre of tepid UK home gambling for fifty years. For six years it was requisitioned by the government for various uses during WW2.
Now hope is in the air and work has finally begun on restitution after a long-drawn out and an embarrassing series of delays and false dawns. Manchester developer Capital&Centric is behind the scheme with building designs from Liverpool’s ShedKM architects and landscaping from Altrincham’s Planit- IE.
The ambition is to create a ‘Hollywood of the North’ with state of the art studios for film and TV. Numbers being bandied around say the scheme could create 4,000 jobs and generate £200m annually. The development will include the construction of two 20,000 sq ft studios on neighbouring land.
As work commenced Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “The past few years have seen our area become a backdrop to some of the biggest film and TV productions on our screens. It’s safe to say that we’re building an enviable reputation as the most filmed location outside of London – but I’m never content with resting on our laurels.
“The £17m we’ve invested into Littlewoods and The Depot will ensure that our area can continue to cater for every stage of the production process and attract the thousands of jobs and training opportunities it will bring with it. Today takes us one massive step closer to turning that vision into reality and staking our claim as the Hollywood of the North and I can’t wait to see this development start to take shape.”
That long, figuratively and literally, embarassment off Edge Lane may be on the turn.
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