Downing and the UK Border Agency have agreed a 15-year lease for 220,000 sq ft at The Capital in the city centre, ending months of speculation and saving the city's take-up figures for 2009.
The deal is the largest office letting in Liverpool history, Downing said, and needed the cooperation of existing tenants, Liverpool Vision, which must relocate upstairs to make way for UKBA, and Royal & SunAlliance, the original owner of the building.
George Downing said: "I'd like to thank our tenants at The Capital for all their hard work and continued support throughout these complex negotiations. The successful conclusion of this deal has been achieved thanks to a truly collaborative effort between Downing, UKBA and our existing tenants RSA, Liverpool Vision and Liverpool City Council. As a result, we have a building that will work better for everybody in the long term, and one that boasts a highly prestigious roster of tenants."
UKBA will consolidate its six Liverpool offices into one base at the landmark building on Old Hall Street. More than 2,000 UKBA staff will be brought together under one roof for the first time. The move will begin immediately and is expected to be completed in early 2012.
Downing spent £15m refurbishing The Capital, also dubbed the 'sandcastle' locally, after buying the building from Royal & Sun Alliance at the end of 2005. Despite the huge letting to UKBA and existing tenants the building will not quite be full. The Capital is Liverpool's largest commercial building; comprising a net internal area of 390,000 sq ft. Downing will bring further accommodation within the building to the market in late 2009/early 2010.
Downing added: "Over the past three years, we have invested heavily in the fabric of The Capital, transforming its interior into the kind of contemporary, intelligent space befitting of a cosmopolitan business hub. This is a statement building on the edge of a World Heritage site and as such it is apt that it has been chosen as the new home for such a leading public sector agency."
Eddy Montgomery, regional director of the UK Border Agency in the North West, said taxpayers would save around £10m from the move. He added: "The Capital will bring together staff from several buildings based across Liverpool into one single, modern, open-plan office space. This will improve communication and help play a vital role in providing an efficient and effective service to the public."
Lorraine Rogers, chief executive of the city's investment agency, The Mersey Partnership, said: "The Mersey Partnership has supported the UK Border Agency project team throughout this consolidation and we are delighted at this successful outcome. This move demonstrates confidence in the Liverpool City Region as an outstanding location for UK Government departments and agencies, offering excellent staffing resources and cost competitiveness."
The deal will account for around half of the 2009 city centre office take-up, rescuing agents from an embarrassingly low tally for the year and, instead, bringing it on a par with the five-year average. The only other significant deal this year was the Merseytravel pre-let at Mann Island, for 140,000 sq ft.