A consortium of investors headed by banker Jason Oakley, advised by developer Primesite, has bought the New Chinatown site in Liverpool and plans to restart the project in the summer.
Great George Street Developments, backed by Oakley and headed up by development director Neal Hunter, acquired China Town Development Company, set up by developer North Point Global, by share purchase last month to allow it to restart the project.
Oakley was former managing director of Metro Bank’s commercial banking and mortgage arm, and previously headed up SME banking for both NatWest and RBS.
By purchasing CTDC, Great George Street now has the long leasehold over the New Chinatown site.
Developer North Point has been in legal wrangling with Liverpool City Council over the site for a number of years, and last year a High Court judge granted an injunction against the council to stop it winding up the developer last year.
The council first started legal proceedings against CTDC in July last year, and claims it is still owed £950,000 by the developer.
Great George Street said “none of North Point Global’s directors or shareholders will have any further involvement in the site”, where Liverpool City Council has the freehold.
Hunter said George Street was “in talks with Liverpool City Council and other stakeholders about some legacy issues” but the company ancitipated these would be “resolved swiftly”.
The £200m project, which first hit the buffers in 2016 following the collapse of contractor PHD1, was originally set to include 800 apartments, 120,000 sq ft of office space, and a 140-bedroom hotel over three phases.
George Street now plans to restart work on the first phase, which includes 117 apartments and around 6,000 sq ft of commercial space, in the summer.
Although a main contractor is yet to be confirmed, it is understood the first phase will be delivered within the existing planning permission, including height, scale, and massing, which was granted planning permission in December 2015.
Hunter said the developer was now engaging with existing investors to “assure them their investments are safe” and said the company wanted to ensure “all existing investors within Phase One get the apartments they signed up for”.
While the first phase is likely to be built according to the original planning permission, the developer plans to revisit the other two phases, with a fresh planning application expected later this year.
Hunter said this would be an “opportunity to improve the quality of the scheme” by introducing larger commercial space and a different mix of housing, including some family homes.
He also promised a “significantly different” funding model to help future phases get off the ground.
“We are engaging with major institutional investors to fund the scheme, rather than being reliant on multiple small investors,” said Hunter.
“Our experience tells us that applying an investor-led, fractional sales model to developments of this size and type is not the most appropriate funding method.
“While Phase One has been partly pre-sold on the basis of off-plan sales of units, we will be delivering the remainder of this phase and the procurement of Phases Two and Three on an institutional funding model”.
Developer Primesite, currently working on a series of high-profile projects across the city including The Rise, Herculaneum Quay, and Strand Plaza, helped to facilitate the acquisition and will be advising Great George Street on its plans.
Primesite directors David Cooley and David Farbrother both helped to set up Great George Street but have both stepped aside from the company, allowing other “key stakeholders” to take up the reins at the newly-formed developer.
Great George Street added more details “about board structure and key members of the leadership team will follow”.
Kerry Tomlinson, managing director of Primesite said: “Primesite had the resource, knowledge and influence at a local level to broker this deal, and we are proud to hand the baton to Great George Street Developments for the delivery of the project.
“Owing to our commitment to completing the three prominent Liverpool sites on which we are already working, we felt it was important to help set up a dedicated development company which would be better resourced and led by industry-renowned investors and principals.
“Primesite’s own pipeline is too full for us to be able to commit to a project of this magnitude for the city, so we will instead be offering our advisory expertise to ensure this development becomes the landmark our city deserves.”
Advisors to the project include Arup, Brock Carmichael, JMW, and CBRE.