Central Village work ‘will start in months’

Developer Merepark pledged to start construction of phase one of its major retail-led project in Liverpool in the coming months as it received planning consent to integrate the Lewis's building into the scheme.

Merepark, which owns Lewis's with Capital & Counties, will carry out a £105m redevelopment of the well-known listed department store on Renshaw Street.

The building's striking frontage and famous Liverpool Resurgent statue by Sir Jacob Epstein and the 1950s Festival of Britain tiled mural in the former restaurant on the fifth floor will all be retained.

Architect RTKL's plans for the interior of the nine-storey, 420,000 sq ft building include a new thoroughfare leading to a public plaza and connecting into the Central Village development, a joint venture between Merepark and Ballymore, and the Ropewalks district beyond.

There will also be retail and leisure units at ground, plaza and upper plaza levels, allowing for at least two large tenants with major street frontage. A music venue will be created in the basement, with a large bar on the lower ground level, both accessible from Renshaw Street. On the upper floors there will be office space and a three-star boutique-styled hotel.

The Lewis's building knits into the long-awaited Central Village between Renshaw Street and Bold Street on former Railtrack land. A spokeswoman said today that Merepark/Ballymore will "begin work on the £110m first phase of the £160m Central Village development in the coming months" but gave no further details.

The start on site was originally scheduled for the second half of 2007 but met with delays, not least as the Lewis's building was acquired at the turn of the year.

The spokeswoman added: "This has been an exhaustive process involving a very well known and listed building. Merepark's policy is to take the time to satisfy every department so that everyone's happy throughout the process. It's a significant scheme and one that couldn't be rushed."

The project will include 25- and 20-storey residential buildings, a four-star hotel and ground and first floor leisure and retail. A decision on the hotel, to be created in the Watson Building on Renshaw Street, is due next month from Liverpool City Council.

CBRE and Savills have been appointed as the agents for the leisure aspects of the scheme. CBRE will also be responsible for retail lettings.

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