Wates Construction has started work on a 62,000 sq ft office for Atlantic Container Line, which project developer Langtree claims is the first purpose-built shipping company headquarters in Liverpool for almost a century.
The new block at 86-90 Duke Street, owned by the Homes & Communities Agency, will replace a Georgian block of houses and warehouses dating from the 1770s which will be demolished to make way for development, despite objections from heritage campaigners.
Langtree said this will be the city's first purpose-built shipping HQ since the development of the listed India Buildings on Water Street in 1924. India Buildings were built by the shipping firms of Sir Richard Durning Holt and Alfred Holt partly for their own occupation but partly as a speculative venture to let space to other businesses.
Funding sources for the ACL development include £2.82m from the European Regional Development Fund, £1.38m from the Chrysalis Fund, and Regional Growth Fund money.
The DLA Architecture-designed office will be the UK headquarters for ACL, whose global HQ is in Westfield, New Jersey. ACL is itself part of the Grimaldi Group, which is headquartered in Naples, Italy.
ACL will purchase the building on completion and will occupy 20,000 sq ft. The total office space is 40,000 sq ft, with a basement and communal areas making up the remaining 22,000 sq ft. ACL's 160 staff are currently based in 8 Princes Dock and are due to move to 86-90 Duke Street in 2016.
Ian Higby, ACL's UK managing director, said: "We have been growing for some years and the time is right to develop our own HQ in the city. We have created around 50 new jobs this year alone and this new building will give us the space to grow further.
"We are centralising a lot of activity in Liverpool. We have brought work here from North America and Europe, and there is no doubt Liverpool is a great city for maritime. Langtree has been enormously helpful in facilitating our move, and we're also very grateful for the support we've received from the City, the LEP and from the Regional Growth Fund.
"The building will provide superb accommodation for the business and sends a clear message regarding our commitment to our staff and to Liverpool. We will also be seeking occupiers for the balance of the space and are confident that there will be strong interest to take this up."
Langtree was appointed preferred developer for the site on the corner of Suffolk Street and Duke Street before the downturn by the North West Development Agency, whose assets later transferred to the Homes & Communities Agency but development stalled.
ACL was advised by DTZ; Langtree by Stratos PDI.