Liverpool ONE South John Street

Best of the North West | Liverpool ONE

Peter Hynd Promenade EstatesParent, soldier, developer, philanthropist: the four sides to Gerald Grosvenor, the late Duke of Westminster, were tied intimately to his relationship with Liverpool and led ultimately to his development of Liverpool ONE, writes Peter Hynd, chairman of Promenade Estates and Ion Development.

The scheme is rightly recognised as the single most influential property investment in the city’s modern history, re-casting Liverpool as a thriving leisure and tourism destination and providing an anchor-point for multiple developments and investments since.   

It catapulted the city from seventeenth to fifth in the UK’s retail hierarchy and, in transforming 43 acres of the city centre, turbo-charged an already motoring tourism and convention sector.  Since 2008, when the 1.6m sq ft scheme opened, Liverpool’s city centre hotel stock has mushroomed from 3,481 rooms to 8,131 – and there are many more in the pipeline.  With occupancy of 82%, it’s no wonder. 

The city now ranks in the top four of visitor destinations in the UK and was revealed only last month to be the UK’s most talked-about city on social media.  If ever there was a case study of the beneficial ripple-effect of regeneration, it would be Liverpool ONE. 

It could only have come about because of the Duke’s unique relationship with the city and the understanding this gave him of the scale of the opportunity. 

As head of Britain’s reserve forces he made frequent visits to the Territorial Army’s base in Bootle and he came to know the city and its people intimately as a result.  Collecting his children from nightclubs in the city at 2am kept him abreast of its booming leisure economy, whilst simultaneously illustrating how much else around it was failing. 

But he saw positive changes.  Our own 600,000 sq ft regeneration of Queen Square demonstrated that large-scale, institutional-quality development could succeed in the city and he took heart from this, I’m told, pulling a team together that was capable of delivering on his and the council’s impressive vision. 

Huge credit is due to the way BDP’s masterplan knitted together the city by utilising its old street pattern, partly-obscured thanks to the attentions of the Luftwaffe so many years earlier.  Theirs remains the only masterplan ever to be nominated for the Stirling Prize, and rightly so. 

It was the Duke’s misfortune – and Liverpool’s great luck – that he delivered the project in the teeth of a recession, requiring him to underwrite the development to the tune of several hundred million pounds, which he did so willingly.  He could so easily have called a halt and his commitment to seeing the job through remains the greatest single act of philanthropy in Liverpool’s modern history, for which he deserves enormous credit.   

Our city is forever in his debt and I quietly doff my cap every time I stroll through his magnificent legacy.  I would encourage all Liverpudlians to do likewise. 

As a new decade nears, throughout December Place North West will be publishing views from the property industry on the best buildings completed between 2000 and 2019, highlighting the design and development successes of the past 20 years.

To take part in the series, email news@placenorthwest.co.uk with your suggestion for the best North West building of the 2000s, and a member of the editorial team will be in touch.  

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A very good piece. Had the good fortune to hear the Duke talk in Liverpool back in the day and his love of the city was very obvious. Talked with great affection and knowledge and almost with a sense of duty. He could help, and so he did. Top bloke and well said, Peter Hynd.

By Sceptical

I enjoyed that article, a nice positive feelgood piece.

By Verum

Chester and Liverpool demonstrate two periods of a similar history in trade. The Duke was benefactor to both, and I take my hat off to him too.

By Liverpolitan

beautiful

By Anonymous

A fascinating and insightful piece on someone born into privilege and commercially savvy, yet possessed with a genuine social conscience. Liverpool owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for firstly his vision, but also for his faith in its people and its ability to reinvent itself.

By Dezine

A brilliant article, by someone who has quietly played his part, with and without Steve Parry in the transformation of the City.

By Pete Swift

Well said Sceptical

By Carl

Folks like to knock titles and wealth but only this modern day billionaire Duke invested time, money and vision in this great city. Others spend £s in London, he spent in Liverpool.

By Granddad2015

The people who actually get paid to care for our city, and those these days that purport to run their “businesses” in its interests, could not have been fit to shine this man’s shoes. He did more for this city than any British government since the 60s.

Here’s to the Grosvenors.

By Mike

Is this a joke? The late Duke of Westminster inherited the greatest private estate in the UK. As he passed the Dukedom down to his son he dodged 9billion in inheritance tax. The current Duke is the worlds richest person in his age bracket. Profits from the Liverpool 1 development flow into the Grosvenor Group and away from the good people of Liverpool. The Grosvenor’s fortune is ultimately derived from William the Conqueror gifting the Norman family land after the invasion. Should we be grateful for philanthropy from wealth that was ultimately gained through conquest? We may be thankful that this Duke wasn’t as bad as others but why should a few decedents of French noblemen have so much power over our cities in the first place? Is it not time that aristocratic land was handed back to inhabitants of the cities?

By Tax paying citizen

What ignorant nonsense. The Grosvenor’s had an opportunity to boost their regional city and they took it. Their efforts protected our city from the last recession, and today provides direct and indirect employment for thousands of people.

British governments, both Labour and Tory, have done less than the bare minimum for us. The local Labour lot even less. If that’s where his money would have ended up I’m glad (if that’s what happened) it was avoided.

There are two things the man did that winds people up: 1) he was rich, and 2) he used his money to truly benefit Liverpool.

Militants (aka Momentum) last “contribution” to the city consisted of social cleansing, dedensification and the construction of a few miserable estates (curiously gifted to inhabitants) which hinder this city to this very day.

So Mr Communist would prefer to seize the Grosvenor’s assets and redistribute them. At least we know where we stand. And have past performance to understand what that really means.

“Misery for the many, not the few”.

By Mike

A property developer writing an article praising another property developer as if Liverpool ONE was a charitable gift to the city. Whilst I agree that the Duke was a friend of the city and the redevelopment was a great step in the regeneration process, make no mistake – this was a commercial venture which only went ahead because it was going to generate significant profits to the investor. Yes, there was a difficult period in the process but if you’re in the top ten richest UK billionaires, it hardly ranks as great philanthropy tp underwrite a debt which protects your original investment.

By Ian Jones

Dear @Ian Jones, you’re completely missing Mr Hynd’s point: the development could have been stopped in its tracks because it was about to lose £250m of the Duke’s money due to the recession. He chose to swallow the cost and shield his investment partners in Canada and elsewhere from any dilution of their own stakes and completed the scheme regardless.

Facing exactly the same circumstances Westfield, a peer of Grosvenor’s, walked away from Bradford leaving a huge hole in the middle of the city for eight years before re-starting a much-diluted project.

If you bother to read Grosvenor’s annual reports from 2008 onwards you’ll see numerous references to the on-going cost of Liverpool ONE and its impact on their balance sheet. The Duke knew that, given values in Liverpool and the pressures on the retail sector, it would be many years before the scheme started generating profits and yet his commitment has never wavered.

Now, talk us through what you’ve done for Liverpool lately.

By Myth-buster

@Tax paying citizen – you’re quite right. I remain devastated at what the Romans did to my ancestors’ small-holding when they built Chester and am putting in a claim for recompense, as well as seeking an apology from the Italian government.

That fits with your logic, right?

By Scourge of Rome

Dear @Ian Jones, I think you’re missing Peter Hynd’s point: the development could have come to a crashing halt because of the recession. The Duke chose to swallow a quarter of a billion pounds and protect his investment partners in Canada and elsewhere from any dilution of their own stakes, before going on to complete the scheme regardless of its impact on his own business.

Facing exactly the same circumstances Westfield, a peer of Grosvenor’s, walked away from Bradford leaving a huge hole in the middle of the city for eight years before re-starting a much-diluted project.

If you bother to read Grosvenor’s annual reports from 2008 onwards you’ll see numerous references to the on-going cost of Liverpool ONE and its impact on their balance sheet. The Duke knew that, given values in Liverpool and the pressures on the retail sector, it would be many years before the scheme started generating profits and yet his commitment has never wavered.

Now, take us through your latest contribution to Liverpool…

By Sunny Jim

Dear Myth-Buster, Of course he could have walked away, as could any developer from any distressed asset in that period. You hit the nail on the head though when you say it would have cost the Duke £250m if he walked. He chose, like most developers with deep pockets, to see it through. That doesn’t make him a philanthropist, even if his continuance was of great benefit to the city – which, if you care to read my post again, I acknowledged. As for what I personally have done for Liverpool, I would be very happy to give you my CV but I’m certainly not posting it on here.

By Ian Jones

Hear hear TPC, let’s see Johnny Guitar in Knowsley Hall

By Verum

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