Last month saw the grand opening of the final phase of the Liverpool One development and today, on a bright and crisp autumn afternoon I took a stroll with the camera through the new Chavasse Park and surrounding streets.
Although the main concourse of shops is, architecturally, pretty humdrum, I suppose that is the price we have to pay for having such a huge area of the city (once littered with apalling eyesores like the Paradise Street car park, Steers House and many stretches of derelict land) improved so dramatically. What redeems it somewhat is that, unlike a typical shopping mall development, a variety of materials and textures have been used in the architecture of the various units that make up the whole.
But the new Chavasse Park is brilliant; it’s a lovely space with lawns and fountains that is already a place where people congregate and sit. And it’s been finished to a high standard with quality stone work and shrub and tree planting. Above all, it has opened up the waterfront and the Albert Dock, previously isolated behind a busy dual carriageway and wasteland.
Phase One of Liverpool One was opened to the public in May. The new phase includes a 14 screen Odeon cinema and a restaurant-lined terrace. The restaurants overlook Chavasse park, which is at the heart of the development.
The project, previously known as The Paradise Project, involved the redevelopment of 42 acres of land in Liverpool city centre. The project was anchored by John Lewis and Debenhams, with additional leisure, residential, office, public open space and transport developments.
In 1998, a study commissioned by the City Council revealed that Liverpool’s reputation as a regional shopping centre was under serious threat, and recommended a radical redevelopment of over 42 acres, the largest city centre development in Europe since the post-war reconstruction. In April 1999, Liverpool City Council passed a resolution for comprehensive redevelopment of the Paradise Street Area, which contained Chavasse Park, the Paradise Street Bus Station and NCP Car Park, Quiggins, the Moat House Hotel, Canning Place Fire Station and BBC Radio Merseyside. There were also large areas of wasteland, some used as car parks.In March 2000, the Council selected the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Group as developer.
Work began in Spring 2004 with the excavation of Chavasse Park, and incorporated archaeological investigations, since Chavasse Park covered the ruins of buildings destroyed in World War II bombing, and the Canning Place car park was on the site of the Old Dock, the world’s first wet dock.
To illustrate the scale of the construction, here are photos taken in spring 2006.
The first parts of the development to be completed were the multi-storey car park on Liver Street,and the bus station on Canning Place. Both opened in November 2005, allowing the old bus station and car park on Paradise Street to be demolished in January 2006. This cleared the way for construction of the new buildings on the west side of Paradise Street, as the Moat House Hotel had already been demolished in May 2005.
In July 2006, Herbert’s Hairdressers became the first business to move into new premises in the development, in the uniquely-styled ‘Bling Bling’ building on Hanover Street. At the same time, BBC Radio Merseyside moved into new premises also on Hanover Street, allowing the demolition of the remaining buildings on Paradise Street.
The brand name Liverpool One was chosen after months of marketing research to find a short and snappy brand label for what is Europe’s biggest retail project. The project director told the Daily Post: ‘We have put a lot of work into coming up with a brand name and believe we have chosen something that will become very popular and noticeable. Liverpool One is the most important development in Liverpool’s city centre for more than 40 years. It will deliver a shopping, residential and leisure environment that few other cities can match’.
There has been criticism of the development. The Open Spaces Society has criticised the removal of public rights of way in the development area and fears that universal access to Liverpool’s central streets may be denied to citizens in future. It has also been criticised for isolating businesses in the former retail heart of the city (such as Lewis’s , Rapid Hardware and stores on Bold Street), and for shifting Liverpool’s retail district (resulting in a lot of empty units around Church Street, Lime Street, Ranelagh Street and Bold Street). And there has been criticism of the architecture.
Footnote, August 2009:
‘Since its opening by the Duke of Westminster in a blaze of publicity last December, the critics of One Park West have had a field day, crowned by its recent nomination for a “Carbuncle Cup” in a competition to find the country’s worst new building…When the Duke of Westminster opened One Park West last year, he called it the “jewel in the crown” of the Liverpool One development. The central tower is the highest in Liverpool One. The raking corner feature is designed to define the edge of the park. The Carbuncle Cup, organised by architects’ website Building Design and based on public nominations, will be awarded at the same time as the prestigious Stirling Prize, for which Liverpool One is shortlisted’. (Daily Post)