Overseas developer buys Municipal Buildings for hotel

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.

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More inward investment and good news for Liverpool.

By Lord Liver

Hopefully this will be another shot in the arm for this side of Dale St. Just need a nice new build on that corner plot – and the flyover pulling down and the area master-planned to be an extension of the cultural & educational offerings across the road, then we’re sorted!

By DuncanD

The flyovers are pretty special in their own way if not exactly conducive to the vitality of the city. What’s the plan for them? I don’t see why there is a need for such a fast road leading onto Tithebarn Street and Dale Street even if their form and material (mosaic clad) are strangely beutiful.

By Steven

Thank god it wasn’t Signature Living. The city has more than enough north end bling with their tacky hotel offering. Nice to see somebody else in the mix who might offer something a bit more tasteful.

By CMW

Pull the flyover down, sort out what’s left behind to create a proper street again linking up to William Brown Street, and the place will be dramatically improved even with the dual carriageway to cross (although they should sort out that stupid and weird central reservation!)

By Mike

Agreed. That whole stretch of the city centre up to West Derby Road needs a serious re-think. Massive potential to re-create an interesting inner city neighbourhood. Reroute and create better roads, current ones squeeze everyone in the same direction causing mayhem…and get rid of that blinking central business park…the whole area works like an overzealous and testosterone fuelled university student’s final year group project!

By Traffic King

Thank god its not signature

By anon

Could this kick start a lot more interest from the SE Asia market?

By Ever Wondered

@Steven: pull them down before they end up listed or something crazy!!! I swear there’s a plaque on the bridge that says they won an award for something like ‘inonvation’

By Jenny JL

Lets hope this is a tasteful development for such a beautiful building and as Duncan and Lord Liver state will be an injection of capital into the area. However I totally disagree with what Malcolm Kennedy has said – that they don’t have enough staff. What has actually been done is Liverpool City Council have thrown good money after bad. Not thinking what they are doing. Staff have been moved into then out of Hatton garden, Tinlings buildings and others. And other offices – refurbs done – then building sold and staff moved again. Total waste of money. A little bit of thought could save Big Joe and the gang a lot of money.
As for putting everyone’s council tax up by 10% to raise money this is ridiculous! STOP WASTING MONEY!
When Joe has sold off Sefton Meadow (for housing) New Heyes School – for housing. Part of Calderstones park. Watergate lane – for housing. There will soon be no more family silver left to sell! Think Joe and Crew could do with buying a few scratch cards themselves or doing the lottery this Tues and Friday! As that seems to be about as forward thinking as it gets!!

By Mary Smiley

If they do pull the flyovers down – lets hope they think about that as God knows what they thought they were doing with Edge Lane. Shocking!
Yes it is a beautiful area from the Library, St George’s Hall, Walker Art Gallery and Dale Street in General – should they not have the same approach – re the sandstone pavements and something similar to what they are trying to do with the Knowledge Quarter – obviously with consideration of the traffic management.

By Mary Smiley

Excellent news! Dale Street is becoming an exciting destination. I think the Council have been very clever in bringing all these new hotels to the centre of the World Heritage Site. It’s not just about saving money. Liverpool is lucky that its municipal offices weren’t located in one great big town hall… much more difficult to adapt. And our beautiful Georgian Town Hall/Mansion House still gives us the civic focus, as well as magnificent St. George’s Hall for big events and concerts… which is what it was originally built for!

By Altmouth

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