ACC Liverpool reveals extension plans

Michael Hunt

New proposals for an exhibition and events complex to be built on a site adjacent to the Arena & Convention Centre on Kings Dock in Liverpool have been announced.

The planned venue is set to be built on a site owned by the Homes & Communities Agency and delivered by a partnership between Liverpool City Council and ACC Liverpool.

ACC Liverpool exhibition and events complexThe facility will cost in the region of £40m and is aimed to be open for business in September 2014.

Plans include a sky bridge to connect the exhibition and events facility to the existing Arena & Convention Centre.

The council and ACC Liverpool said funding for the development is set to be raised through borrowing, supported directly from the revenue generated by the centre, so that the development will be at zero cost to taxpayers.

A 200-bed four or five-star hotel is included in the development plans but will be funded separately through the private sector. ACC Liverpool is currently involved in confidential discussions with several hotel operators but declined to disclose any further details.

The 87,187 sq ft exhibition centre will be owned by the council and will be managed by the existing ACC Liverpool management team.

Space at the venue will be sub-dividable into three separate pillar-free halls, each 29,062 sq ft in size. Each hall could be used separately or in combination.

Other characteristics include:

  • One hall being designed to host banquets with a facility to lower the ceiling height to create a more intimate environment
  • All three halls combined will provide a concert venue for up to 10,000 concert goers
  • A concourse area will provide public access to the exhibition halls and will be designed with a glazed frontage, reflecting the design of the current galleria at the Arena & Convention Centre in Liverpool
  • Service support areas will be situated between the main pedestrian concourse and the exhibition halls. Support areas will include office suites, cloakrooms, a business centre, staff facilities and catering outlets

At a press conference in the Arena & Convention Centre on Monday, Bob Prattey, chief executive of ACC Liverpool, told Place: "The site we're looking at for the exhibition development is currently owned by the Homes & Communities Agency and we're in detailed discussions with them about how we can take ownership of the site and complete what we already started here really with the same model used for the Arena & Convention Centre.

"We, as ACC Liverpool, have already done our feasibility studies. We used Grant Thornton to do the business feasibility and we used Davis Langdon on the cost side and then we put our combined business plan together to Liverpool City Council which brought in KPMG to do due diligence on the business plan and they brought Gleeds in on the cost plan and those four sets of consultants, if you like, have come to a conclusion that says the business is sound and therefore the council has decided to borrow the money to invest in the project."

Site of ACC Liverpool exhibition and events complexIn 2008, site owner English Partnerships, now known as the Homes & Communities Agency, and Liverpool Vision selected David McLean and City Lofts to develop the same site into 429 flats in three towers. However, the collapse of both firms due to the credit crisis ended the plans.

Prattey added: "The original plan had a masterplan for the site in question and that masterplan was being run by Liverpool Vision in conjunction with the HCA but obviously the recession has led everyone to a conclusion that the plans for commercial and/or residential development on that site were not going to be taking place for the foreseeable future and therefore the land was going to lie fallow for a considerable amount of time. It was just by coincidence that we were looking at our site development and our plans for a five-year business plan. We've taken the HCA, Liverpool City Council, and Liverpool Vision, along with us and everyone has come to the conclusion that the development of an exhibition facility on the site, complimentary to what we've already got here at the Arena & Convention Centre, in the short term is probably going to be the best investment into the site.

"In terms of the business plan we've assumed no grant funding, so the business plan assumes we borrow the money and we earn enough from the existing project and the new project to fulfil our obligations in terms of paying the interest and ultimately paying off the loan. However, we will be exploring any opportunities for grant funding across a variety of sources and anything that comes to fruition on those just gives us more head room."

Prattey added that the next phase of the plans will be to formally appoint a design team, including an architect, to take forward the proposals already being drawn up by ACC Liverpool and the council's planning department.

Prattey said: "We've been talking to exhibition organisers, concert promoters, conference organisers, everybody who could be a potential user of the building for around 12 months and they will be, as our customers, fundamentally involved in the design and characteristics of the building. So, in terms of build, we will be talking to them about a whole series of things that are pertinent to their particular industries, roof heights, access points, where the catering is, all that kind of thing.

"I've learnt over many years in the business that the best way to get those guys signing contracts to use the building is actually involved in the design aspects early doors. The Association of Event Organisers has actually said they would be more than happy to work with us to represent the industry in terms of the design characteristics."

A planning application is likely to be submitted in March 2012, with work likely to start on site in early 2013. Neighbouring businesses and residents will be consulted in advance of the application being made.

If plans are approved, the council and ACC Liverpool said approximately 150 people would be employed during construction, with an estimated further 1,300 jobs supported by the exhibition and events programme once the complex is open.

Cllr Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council, said the council is determined to use local suppliers and labour during the construction phase if the scheme is given the green light.

In its first year of operation, the exhibition and events complex is expected to host about 50 events with an aim of attracting 250,000 visitors.

Since opening in 2008, the Arena & Convention Centre, designed by Wilkinson Eyre and constructed by Bovis Lend Lease, has hosted more than 380 events in the arena, welcoming over 1.7m visitors, while the conference centre has held over 420 conferences and welcomed over 215,000 delegates.

The two facilities combined generate around £100m a year to Liverpool's economy.

It is estimated that the new exhibition and event venue will create an additional £40m a year to the city region.

Below is a two-minute video from the press conference held on Monday at the Arena & Convention Centre created by West Didsbury-based film makers iCityMedia

[VIDEO: 35]

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