Construction of a pair of 20,000 sq ft purpose-built film and TV studios off Edge Lane, next to the soon-to-be-redeveloped Littlewoods Building, has topped out.
Liverpool City Council, which is leading the project, has named the pop-up production facilities The Depot after the site’s history as a former bus depot for Merseyside Transport.
It appointed Morgan Sindall as the main contractor last year and work began in December. The studios – known as ‘stages’ – were originally due to be operational by this spring, but completion has been pushed back to this summer.
The facilities are separate to, but intended to support, the £54m Littlewoods scheme being undertaken by developer Capital & Centric. The former Littlewoods Pools building is to be redeveloped into a 275,000 sq ft centre for the film and TV industry, with office and studio space for production and other companies, and a central food and drink hall that would sit between the building’s two wings.
UK-based Twickenham Studios has agreed to lease 85,000 sq ft at the scheme, and Liverpool John Moores University has agreed to occupy 75,000 sq ft, taking the space to around 60%-70% pre-let.
The existing structures have planning consent, but new-build elements still require consent so a planning application would need to be submitted. Last year, the developer told Place North West the intention was to launch a construction tender and start building works on site before the end of 2020, following funding boosts from Whitehall and the Liverpool City Region in the summer. Work has yet to commence.
Both projects are part of a push to cement Liverpool’s reputation as one of Europe’s premier film and TV production hubs – a “Hollywood of the North”, as Capital & Centric has described it. The pop-up stages are intended to offer a temporary facility to capitalise on current demand for studio space until the Littlewoods scheme completes.
The city council said its Film Office is in talks with “major global production companies” over use of the stages.
Cllr Wendy Simon, acting mayor of Liverpool, said: “I think The Depot is a perfect name for these studios – as it’s a place where ideas will come to life and will make the magic we enjoy on the screen happen.
“The topping out of The Depot is an exciting moment in the journey to realising Liverpool’s ambition to be a 24/7 film city. There’s already a huge amount of interest to book these studios, which underlines their value, but they will also prove to be a fabulous asset for training and nurturing talent in Liverpool.”
And Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, added: “I’ve long said our region is the country’s creative capital and we’re investing to make sure it stays that way. We’ve approved investment of £17m to support the new stages, along with the Littlewood Film and TV studios, and it’s fantastic to see the new production facilities topped out.”