Central Station – Inside the scheme

The Liverpool tower boom is set to continue apace with the announcement by partners Ballymore and Merepark Developments that they have formally applied for planning permission for what they hope will be the next tall building in Liverpool – a stepped block rising from 22 to 38 floors.

Designed by Woods Bagot, Australian architects who have recently worked on the Eastgate Tower in Manchester, the £160 million scheme will stand on a site behind Liverpool’s Central Station. The architectural roots of the development show plainly with the three-step tower bearing more than a passing resemblance to its Manchester relation which is also a series of three blocks of varying height stacked together forming two shorter slabs flanking a taller central one. The stepped massing also helps the project keep in the context of other tall buildings in Liverpool as many of them such as the under construction Unity Tower are also stepped.

The project, if built, will contain 440 one and two bedroom apartments plus penthouses that are expected to fetch in excess of £1 million each on the market plus a middle range hotel and new office space. The plans also separately include 9-19 Bold Street, a £10 million retail area next that has already been pre-let to Drome and Costa Coffee.

Extensive work are set to be carried out on the surrounding street-level of the scheme by American landscape designer Martha Schwarz, who had previously worked on such prestigious jobs as the 1994 FIFA World Cup. This will include a brand new public square complete with water features.

The developers hope to get their project underway and largely completed by the 2008 City of Culture year but despite the pedigree of some of the firms involved in the project the tower can be expected to run into significant opposition. Other developers such as Chieftain and Maro have found their plans attacked by the council and heritage bodies because of the sheer height and this one could well reach the same fate.

To help it through the planning system the developers have already consulted widely with the council and refined their design that has seen the original “Miami” design dropped and the number of floors increased from 30 to 38. They have also talked to English Heritage about it but it is unclear at this stage whether E.H will actively oppose the tower, a situation that would give them a lot of clout if they did thanks to the close location to the World Heritage Site.

Ballymore who originally purchased the land from National Rail for £63 million in 2003 do however have a great track record of eventually getting a scheme off the ground as their four years of wrangling and revisions at the Crossharbour site in London showed. They are certainly not a developer to simply propose a tall and pull out once the going gets tough we should get something on this site, the only question is in what form the final design will be.

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