One of the directors behind the Great George Street project in Liverpool city centre has told Place North West that while co-working and PRS are on the table as options for the future of the site, the controversial fractional apartment sales model won’t be used.
Neal Hunter, development director of Great George Street Developments, said that the growth of the Baltic district had been a factor in changing the site’s make-up, with 45,000 sq ft of office space, a hotel and 65,000 sq ft of retail and leisure now planned alongside the residential.
A planning application has now been submitted, having gone to consultation earlier this year on a scheme that looks to be more mixed and community-focused than the New Chinatown proposal that went before, promoted by China Town Development Company.
He said: “It has been a while since the previous proposal, and the city has moved forward, in particular the Baltic Triangle has established itself, and the Knowledge Quarter’s expansion is another factor.
“There is an appetite for office space, particularly from the creative and digital sectors, and we want to provide somewhere companies can step up and grow into, rather than have to seek larger spaces in the CBD. On top of that, we want to attract new businesses, and from the conversations we’re having, if the product is right there’s no reason the national co-working operators wouldn’t locate here.”
Although less dense than the New Chinatown plan, the project remains residential at heart, with a first phase of 117 apartments to be followed by 466 apartments and 37 townhouses. Brock Carmichael is architect on the scheme.
Hunter said that there will be a more diverse tenure mix, with a spread of one, two and three-bedroom apartments and duplexes, along with the townhouses that will front some of the street-facing parts of the site.
He also stated unequivocally that the fractional sales model that has become fraught with controversy will not be used here. In terms of how the homes will be marketed, he said: “I think the site’s too large to focus on one market or method. We’ll speak with investors, look at open market sales, there may be a PRS element.”
Although used successfully by some developers, fractional sales have been in place at various schemes that have hit the rocks, leaving individual investors, often based overseas, significantly out of pocket.
New Chinatown was one such scheme. Led by developer North Point Global, the project was heavily marketed overseas and investors bought into the scheme off-plan and putting down significant deposits, however the project was marred with delays and questions over its viability. In summer 2017, North Point Global Group issued a statement saying that it was to dispose of its property interests, return deposits to investors and cease operations after “being severely damaged by events that have been neither their responsibility nor within their control”. In some cases, such as Angelgate in Manchester, the developer company entered administration having spent the buyers’ deposits, and due to the extensive list of creditors involved the buyers look unlikely to get their money back.
In Liverpool, the City Council has been at pains to improve perceptions of development in the city, and announced its intention this summer of increasing the rigour around developer selections.
Great George Street Developments is headed by banker Jason Oakley, and is understood to have acquired the site and its liabilities in full from North Point Global. The developer said this week that it intends to build out phase one in line with an existing consent, with a start on site this winter – Hunter said that a preferred contractor has been identified, with negotiations ongoing.
In terms of the timescale for phases two and three, he said that the aim is to reach completion inside four years, notwithstanding the potential for planning hurdles and technical issues with what is a difficult site, with Network Rail tunnels and bedrock to overcome in a scheme that has 427 underground parking spaces.