‘Albert Dock has fallen behind its neighbours’ says Heseltine report

Visitor numbers at Liverpool’s Albert Dock have dropped by three million since 2000, according to a report released today undertaken by the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy & Practice.

The report, commissioned by dock owners Gower Street Estates and Aberdeen Asset Management, looks at the current state of the 1.2m sq ft mixed-use asset and recommends improvements for the future.

The analysis pointed to the grade one-listed docks as “once a leader and pace setter in terms of offer, quality and appearance. But times have changed. It no longer is.”

Nearby developments, including the £1.4bn Liverpool One retail scheme, have challenged the site’s more conventional offering. The Dock’s vacancy rate at 13%, although in line with the city average, is well above Liverpool One which is at 3.2%.

The report said: “Too many of the attractions in the Dock are not high enough quality” and the retail offering is “relatively down market.” Attractions include the Maritime Museum, Tate gallery and 46 food and retail outlets, including a Revolution bar, a Gusto restaurant and a Miller & Carter steakhouse. Shops include sweet shop Quay Confectionary, souvenir seller With Love From Liverpool, and Beatles-themed Fab4Store.

Visitor numbers have fallen in the past 17 years. The dock attracted six million visitors in 2015, up from 4.5 million in 2009. But at its peak in 2000 it attracted over nine million, almost half were visiting for the first time. The report argues that “a better focused, higher quality offer would probably attract more visitors.”

The report’s findings suggest the need for Gower Street Estates and Aberdeen Asset Management to develop a strategic plan, which is integrated into wider policy and political debate. The report also argues for the creation of a “single body” who can integrate the different organisations across the Liverpool waterfront.

Sue Grindrod, chief executive of Gower Street Estates, said: “We launched the Albert Dock 175 strategy in May 2016, and many of this report’s findings already form part of the wider masterplan for Albert Dock that was commissioned in 2014, that includes a number of major public realm projects, which will go into planning very soon. More than ever we are committed to a long-term strategy of investment in both the infrastructure of the Dock, Aberdeen Asset Management’s evolving retail and leisure offer, and our major events programme which we will continue to invest in to drive growth in visitor numbers each year.”

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Whilst I agree that the tenant mix could be improved; according to Visit Britain / England (2016) – it’s still one of the most visited attractions outside of London (recent years have seen it labelled, by them, as the most visited). They also describe the Tate as being “the most visited art gallery of its kind outside London.” So it’s not all doom and gloom – but there’s always room for improvement.

By Jelly Jam

I don’t think the AD has fallen behind so much as things have improved around it, which is a very, very positive thing for Liverpool.

I think the owners have the right idea when it comes to management of this asset and the masterplan proposals look very reassuring.

By Rooney

The key will be in improving the adjacent Canning Dock and Salthouse Docks. Canning is a mess – desperately needs a bridge across the piers and to clear all of the construction and fencing. Salthouse Dock would be much better utilised with some big sloping or stepped public realm down to the water side, like the waterfront outside Oslo opera house.

By Hokey Cokey

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