It is a known fact that Liverpool has more listed buildings than any other UK city outside of London, but, as we all know, London has become a huge phenomenon with regard to the increase in its property values, and yet here we are as a city with many disused listed buildings. I believe there are just a couple of issues that need to be addressed in order to eliminate this huge issue.

As in all things, it is about collating all of the different issues in order to create a battle plan and I believe I have gained the relevant knowledge that is needed to address this issue. In 2008 we opened our first Signature Living Serviced apartment block, it was a unit made up of 12 apartments, it took the builders 4 years to develop, due to this debilitating timescale, it not only ensured I lost the will to live it also just about drained me of every penny I had. I was broke, armed with just an idea of how Katie and I were about to change the Liverpool accommodation skyline. At the time, Liverpool had just 2400 beds and we were in the the midst of the worst recession the world has ever known; we are now sitting with over 650 beds and will soon have well over 1000 beds in the centre of Liverpool and all of our accommodation sites have been placed inside several disused buildings. I believe that due to this arduous path I have gained the relevant knowledge and a desire to help my City fight against this form of urban decay.

Ashcroft-Building
Ashcroft Building

I have created a business development model that enables me to gain the relevant funds with a team around me that understands their objectives, and that is to bring build our development for our investors below budget and time-scale.

There are many reasons for our cities dilemma, but before we get into the reasons why we, as one of the U.K’s top destinations, still have a glut of abandoned listed buildings. I would just like to state my drive is not about personal gain; my goal is to have a Signature Living Hotel in every major U.K. City and not to re-develop Liverpool’s amazing heritage back to its former glory, although I would love to be involved. My desire is simply to see my amazing city sit along the other UK’s top cities as it was intended to be, and to do this all we have to do, in my view, is to clear dereliction initially from our city centre, which will give us a real impetus to push through this policy to our suburbs.

To understand why we still have so many disused listed buildings in our city, you need to realise there are a few key points:

1. All listed buildings that are disused do not get charged for rates; this allows the owner to keep hold of the building without any pain. I believe all owners should be charged rates as this will force them to develop their asset.

2. We need to ensure our planning department have an understanding that in order for this site to be developed, they must allow the owner to have a budget to re-instate any issues that his/her conservation or Heritage officer wishes to enforce upon. The reason for this is due to all developers will, in general, have some sort of borrowings; the issue is that the developer will never know what the end bill will be to fulfil the conservation officer’s wishes and, due to this, it will create uncertainty – and when you are dealing in what could be a huge amount of money, you can see why this uncertainty can create a negative aspect. The example of this is the stunning Aloft Hotel, which is a grade 2 star listed building, which would never have happened without the intervention of our Mayor Joe Anderson. The Aloft had some 500k disbursed upon the buildings heritage, which I believe came as a shock to the developers.

Irish-Centre
Irish Centre

I really have no issue with the amount of money that was engaged here, it is just the uncertainty that it creates. In other words, if you were a developer who had a choice of a listed building, with all of its additional planning conditions, or you were to build on a piece of land, I believe you would certainly opt for the easier option of the land.

3. There is a belief that there are many time delays with regard to gaining planning; the longer the time delay, the more cost you will in-cure on interest payments on unemployed funds. The planning department need to let all developers know that we as a city are open for their business.

The above issues relate to an even larger problem; it is a well documented fact that Liverpool is quickly establishing itself as great weekend city, but sadly we do not have the footfall to populate our hotels during the week; the reason for this is due to our city not having enough grade A office space. The more populated office space you have as a city, the more business users you will have coming to your city.

The reasons for this are as follows:

1. All listed buildings are listed as office space, almost as a default; when a developer sees how much office space that is still available in our city they tend not to develop and move on to develop their office space in another city.

2. Listed building office space is, in general, not ideal for modern day office use, and due to this the rental that is achievable is suppressed. Liverpool’s office space is currently at an average 0f £10 per square foot. Manchester has a peak of £28.00 per square foot.

3. It is worth noting that the amount of vacant office accommodation within Liverpool City Centre has grown consistently with the last 5 years, as follows:-

Year

Availability (sq ft)

2013

2.30M (to be confirmed)

2012

2.43M

2011

1.96M

2010

1.89M

2009

1.85M

Fruit-Exchange
Fruit Exchange

Interestingly, although the final figures for 2013 have yet to be finalised, it would appear that, for the first time in years, total availability looks set to drop due to the acquisition and planned conversion of buildings such as Albion House, No 1-9 North John Street & No 2 Moorfields. In every case the properties that have been removed represent buildings that have either reached or are nearing the end of their economic lives and which in busier markets would always have been redeveloped for alternative uses.

Notwithstanding the reduction that has occurred, it is still a concern that over 56% of the total available space is classed as either outdated grade C or grade D and is therefore viewed as poor stock and, at best, extremely difficult to rent.

If this stock were removed from current figures, total availability of grade A, grade B* & grade B would reduce to a much more respectable level of 1,010,491 sq ft, which when compared with year on year take up of circa 250,000 sq ft (2013 is likely to be higher than this at c300,000 sq ft) would demonstrate that in a matter of just over 3 years the city will have a serious lack of good quality accommodation. This combined with the general economic improvements that are being witnessed would hopefully attract developers back to the city and result in new grade A stock being built. Despite the fact there remains 159,557 sq ft of grade A accommodation available, it is widely recognised that the city needs more of this type of space if it is to compete on a national basis and attract the inward investment that it so desperately requires.

In addition to the above, the further benefits of such conversions to the City economy can be summarised as follows:-

  • Reduction in the amount of available grade C / grade D accommodation paints an overall healthier position of the City Centre – there is little doubt that the level of availability does little to encourage developers to invest in the region.
  • Some of these older buildings as identified above actually do have a number of smaller occupiers within them – their redevelopment would displace these tenants into better quality accommodation and result in improved take up figures for the city.
  • The simple logic of supply vs demand would suggest that by reducing availability within the City Centre, demand for the remaining better quality stock would increase and this would have a knock on effect on rents which over time would inevitably improve. Once again this would only help attract developers into the city who at last would see some rental growth in the office sector as compared with the flat rate that has been witnessed over the previous 10 years.
  • Many of these older buildings are listed and therefore no business rates are payable. This combined with the fact that many have been owned for many years with the value having been long since written off, and the cost in bringing them back into use for office purposes, means most owners are reluctant to do anything about them with many buildings therefore falling into disrepair. A policy of encouraging redevelopment and conversion would not only bring these buildings back into use, which would reinvigorate many areas of the City, but equally result in an increase in council tax payable to the Local Authority.
  • The effect of increased development within the City and resultant job creation can only help the wider economy.

In summary, Liverpool has a large over supply of poor quality accommodation that is unlikely to ever let and which (in the main) sit vacant and only act as a blight on the City. 

Union-House
Union House

Such properties are particularly evident along Dale Street, Victoria Street and The Strand and this is particularly frustrating given these roads form the principal routes into and out of the city.

In light of this, I would suggest these roads should be focused on with such properties acquired and brought back into use with the added benefits being already identified above. I would summarise those buildings that I have identified as largely (or fully) vacant and which could be acquired and incorporating an approximate size and likely purchase figure within the table below.

No.

BUILDING

SIZE (sq ft)

PRICE (£)

 

 

 

 

1

Wellington Building, The Strand

61,000

2,500,000

2

Mersey House, The Strand

100,000

4,000,000

3

Produce Exchange, Victoria House

35,000

1,750,000

4

Fruit Exchange, Victoria Street

40,000

2,000,000

5

Bank of England, 31 Castle Street

23,000

2,000,000

6

Union House, Victoria Street

18,000

1,000,000

7

Property Exchange, Cook Street

15,000

1,000,000

8

Princess Building, Dale Street

30,000

1,600,000

9

Ashcroft Building, Dale Street

20,000

1,000,000

10

35 Dale Street, Dale Street

17,500

1,250,000

11

Tower Buildings, The Strand

40,000

1,600,000

12

West Africa House, The Strand

20,000

1,200,000

 

TOTAL

419,500,000

£20,900,000

 Stats have been supplied by Andrew Owen from Mason Owen, Liverpool