Kinrise is aiming to make Martins Bank the best office building in Liverpool. Credit: via Ebury Comms

Kinrise: we want to play our part in renewal of UK cities

The developer’s co-founder Sam Lawson Johnston spoke to Place North West about taking a “calculated risk” in Liverpool, building a £1bn portfolio, and being kind. 

Having acquired the building in 2021, Kinrise has set contractor Lendlease to work converting the grade two-listed Martins Bank Building on Liverpool’s Water Street. 

The project, due to complete at the end of next year, will provide the city with a welcome injection of Grade A office space – albeit not until the end of 2024 – at a time when the impact of undersupply continues to bite. 

“I think we’ll be 40% or 50% of the market when we come out, which sounds like a huge amount but it’s off such a low base,” Lawson Johnston said. 

“Everything’s here to support a really thriving office market but the space hasn’t been produced.” 

Once complete, Martins Bank Building, vacant for the last 15 years, will be the best office scheme in Liverpool, according to Lawson Johnston. 

“We think it has all the combinations for an incredible building,” he said.  

Taking a punt 

Given the relatively low levels of office take-up in Liverpool compared to other regional cities, some eyebrows were raised when Kinrise made its first foray into the city and then decided to develop office space speculatively. 

“I wouldn’t say it was a gamble, but a very highly calculated risk,” Lawson Johnston said. 

Kinrise was also willing to take the risk of investing in a city where the state of local governance was less than ideal. 

Liverpool has in the past been accused of being closed off to outside investment. This perception could not be further from what Kinrise has experienced so far. 

“We have had an extraordinary welcome to the city from the city council and from the combined authority, which really matters if you’re taking a risk and investing in a city,” said Lawson Johnston. 

“To have the council properly welcoming you is an important thing for investors.” 

Kinrise, backed by Karrev, bought the building in 2021. Credit: via Kinrise

A very Kinrise project 

The Martins Bank Building opportunity – to bring a historic local landmark back to life – is firmly in Kinrise’s wheelhouse.  

The company has a very clear understanding of what a typical Kinrise project looks like – taking unloved, historic buildings and making them shine again. 

The developer’s recent acquisitions include the Victorian Citadel building in Birmingham and Sunlight House in Manchester. 

These kinds of projects are often tricky. Historic buildings come with baggage and there are multiple loops to jump through from a conservation perspective. So why bother? 

“Heritage buildings matter to communities,” said Lawson Johnston. 

“We’re very passionate about the renewal of UK cities and we want to play our part in that. It matters that we restore these buildings so they don’t fall down.” 

The green choice 

Another factor that shapes Kinrise’s strategy is a desire to limit the environmental impact of its developments. Lawson Johnston is very aware of his industry’s obligations. 

“Around 40% of global emissions come from property,” he said. “The route to net zero is not knocking buildings down and building new ones. 

“If we want to be serious about getting to net zero [we need to use] the structures that we’ve already built.” 

He hopes this approach will work in the company’s favour when it comes to attracting occupiers to Martins Bank and other buildings within Kinrise’s portfolio, which includes Sunlight House in Manchester. 

“I think tenants who want to become net zero should be choosing existing buildings, not new buildings,” he said. 

Martins Bank Building is due to complete by Q4 2024. Credit: via Ebury Comms

Developing for the next generation 

Lawson Johnston described the Kinrise team as “visionary, ambitious, and kind”. It is also young, which helps when it comes to developing office space for future generations. 

“I think it’s really important to be engaged with different generations. I am technically a millennial but with a Gen X mindset and with lots of friends who are Gen Z,” Lawson Johnston explained. 

“It matters because a large part of the workforce coming through are Gen Y and increasingly Gen Z.” 

It is not all about youth though. Kinrise is supported by an advisory board “with plenty of grey hairs” from a variety of sectors. 

“They bring very unique perspectives to what we do that are not properly narrow. We’re not in an echo chamber.” 

What next? 

Since being founded in 2015, Kinrise has built a portfolio of 12 buildings across five cities totalling 711,000 sq ft and is actively looking for more. 

In the medium to long term, Lawson Johnson has two aims: stick to the Kinrise ethos and make his daughter proud. 

“We’ve shown that when you do the right thing by the buildings and the local community where you’re investing, you can create something special. I think we could do that in many other cities,” he said.

“I would love to see us build a billion-pound portfolio so I could tell my daughter I built a unicorn. She is very keen on unicorns.”

Your Comments

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Still studiously ignoring the invest Liverpool report showing Liverpool was the best performer for Q4 2022.

Still couching our stories in a negative light. Gamble, risk, ergo: why on earth are you doing it.

We’ve had many problems over the years, but perhaps none as unnecessary as the now institutional and colonialesque domination over us by our near neighbours which now comes as second nature (hence institutional).

By Jeff

Lifts the spirits to see one of the UKs finest buildings getting the attention it deserves.

By Anonymous

What an uplift to hear such thoughtful comments – made meaningful through action. A very beautiful part and reminder of the city’s great past.
Eleanor Roosevelt was famously quoted as mentioning the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, as being one of only three European hotels in which she would stay. So, why not ….?

By Terry Fleet

Kinrise – looking at their website – sound like a great firm and a very inspired choice for the rebirth of Herbert Rowse’s interwar masterpiece.


Workers now refuse to go to the office, especially in city centres, there’s no way I would invest in city centre offices

By Gilly

Looks great, wonder if Kinrise could do something the Wellington Rooms on Mount Pleasant.

By Anonymous

Ah Jeff still blaming PNW, Manchester the government..have I missed anyone..? for Liverpool’s perceived woes. This a positive story about a thoughtful developer who owns and is developing a portfolio of interesting buildings across a number of cities. Some may indeed need to change their rose tinted glasses when it comes to development. Others however might want to wipe the lenses now and again.

By Anonymous

Gilly, what nonsense, Agile working exists and has for years. Workers go where they have to go to get paid. Leave the investing to the professionals, they know how to make money.

By Dan

Will companies want to pay rents on offices that are in use for 2/3 days a week? They’re certainly downsizing and using hot desks

By Will

Love Sunlight house, such a beautiful design . Glad Kinrise are the owners.

By Anonymous

@Gilly and the other negatives, of course offices are still needed just look down the M62.
Kinrise are savvy and they are taking the risk, that`s what developers do, they build our cities and look towards the positive and innovation, just like the famous businesses that made Liverpool great previously. Encouraging investment is what Liverpool wants, bringing jobs and prosperity to this and future generations,it`s the private sector that will save us not the public, that ship has sailed.

By Anonymous

Jeff, I completely agree! I’m sorry Place Northwest, but even when there’s something positive to report on what’s happening in Liverpool NOW… TODAY… THIS MINUTE… you can’t resist the temptation to look back or rake up the past with issues that are being addressed by a whole host of talented and hard-working people. Answer me this; what city hasn’t had its problems with governance and the relationship between politicians and the investor community over the years? I really think your publication needs to decide whether its remit is to report on the positive new stories happening right across the region… or, when it comes to Liverpool, revert to tropes and lazy and obvious references that simply feed into the negativity. Manchester is a great example and a true beacon in terms of its renaissance and status as a major commercial centre… and hats off to our neighbours… but come on PNW, please try to present a slightly less negative and more balanced spin to the good things happening in Liverpool – for the sake of the good folk working hard to attract inward investment. At the end of the day, this city has a whole lot going for it and the more traction its development gains will surely benefit everyone… the entire Northwest region included!

By Dezine

    Hi Dezine and Jeff, thank you both for your comments. I encourage you to read the story you’re commenting on, which is a positive one. We believe context is important when writing a story and provide it accordingly. Our job is not to just write positive stories, we want to cover the stories that matter and give a sense of how the North West property market is doing. Everyone here at PNW wants Liverpool to succeed – a strong Liverpool market is good for the North West. I don’t think you achieve that by not providing context or acknowledging past issues. I am always happy to engage with readers about this, and if you wish to discuss this further please email me at My phone number is also on our “contact us” page.
    Please be advised that our comment policy says comments must be “on topic”, which in this case is Kinrise’s decision to invest in the Liverpool office market. I will be evaluating future comments accordingly. Best – J

    By Julia Hatmaker

This is indeed a positive story showing what a good job Kinrise are doing managing and looking after these sometimes difficult to deal with ‘character’ buildings. Also an excellent response Julia and thank you for keeping these comments on topic. Most of us really do appreciate what a fine job PNW does despite the occasional moans.

By James

Despite the usual keyboard chewers dragging up the old chestnuts again this is actually a great article showing what a developer who actually seems to care about the building and its surroundings rather than just maximising profit can do. Liverpool’s record on office development and take up has been shocking. This is a fraction of what’s needed but it will help.

By Anonymous

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