Singaporean investor Fragrance Group has bought the Municipal Buildings from Liverpool City Council to turn into a hotel and restaurant.
The local authority’s former administrative headquarters is to be turned into a four-star hotel by the property developer in its first project in Europe.
The 130,000 sq ft historic block on Dale Street was put on the market last October as the city council seeks to find £90m of savings over the next three years. The price paid by Fragrance Group has not been disclosed.
The sale is a symbol of how far the Labour-led administration will go to raise funds to offset years of austerity cuts under the Coalition. A Liverpool lottery scratch card is currently being planned by the council, the deadline for bids from private operators passed this week.
A report due to go to the authority’s cabinet on Friday 3 February will recommend the approval of the sale to Fragrance Group, which has a portfolio of more than 80 projects including Premier Tower in Melbourne.
Municipal Building is a grade two-listed landmark on Dale Street in the city centre, designed with French and Italian neoclassical influences. Fragrance Group will acquire the building sold on a 250-year lease. The building, which opened in 1866, is expected to be handed over in spring.
The council said Municipal Buildings has space for 1,000 staff but only 640 are based there today due to the reduction in the council’s head count in recent years. The proposal is part of an accommodation strategy which aims to deliver significant ongoing savings and generate funding which can be reinvested in reducing the costs of the city’s major infrastructure projects programme.
Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Municipal Building has been a magnificent home for Liverpool City Council since the 1860s but we no longer have the staff numbers to justify retaining it. I’m delighted we have a buyer of international repute who is looking to use Liverpool to break into the UK and European hotel market. This will have a great impact in terms of generating jobs and bosting out international appeal. We will work with FGL to ensure that its future use protects the building’s unique architectural features, as we have done with the neighbouring Municipal Annexe and Royal Insurance Building which have also recently been brought back into use as four star hotels.
“The sale will bring in much needed money which we can reinvest in reducing the costs of our capital infrastructure programme, as well as delivering ongoing savings by lowering our overheads.”
Among the runners-up which had declared their bids for the property was local hotel operator Signature Living, which acquired nearby Millennium House from the council to convert into the Shankly Hotel.
The council has moved staff to other sites across the city such as Cunard Building at the Pier Head, Premier Court on Hatton Garden, Venture Place on Sir Thomas Street and Wavertree Customer Focus Centre on Wavertree Road. The One Stop Shop based in Municipal Building will be relocated to a self-contained unit within the refurbished St John’s Market.