Jacob Loftus CEO General Projects credit Adam Kenrick

Loftus is keen to push Royal Albert Dock forward on numerous fronts. Credit: Adam Kenrick

UKREiiF | How Royal Albert Dock is taking ‘evolutionary steps’ forward

One year after acquiring the iconic waterfront estate, General Projects CEO Jacob Loftus says the work to capitalise on the potential of the historic landmark is starting to bear fruit.

Loftus said: “It’s certainly the most important piece of heritage real estate that we’ve ever been involved in and I think holds such an important cultural, historical and experiential role in the city.

Royal Albert Dock crowds Liverpool s ing media

Royal Albert Dock is one of the most visited places in the UK. Credit: Adam Kenrick

“We very much see ourselves as custodians and see this project as evolution rather than revolution. For us it’s about trying to identify all of the small areas that we can move the dock on to the next level. We want everyone in Liverpool and everyone who visits the dock to see it as a world-class piece of waterfront infrastructure, historic transformation placemaking and somewhere that you just want to be because it’s amazing.”

General Projects and investment partner Neo capital acquired Royal Albert Dock, a grade-one-listed mixed-use complex of more than 300,000 sq ft, for £40m in May 2023. The destination remains popular and is among the most-visited tourist attractions in the UK, but has long faced criticism for looking tired and not fulfilling its undoubted potential.

Loftus said the improvement programme will be on numerous fronts. “So there’s a public realm project that we’re working on at the moment to start to improve the greenery create spaces that you want to dwell in and make it more accessible for wheelchairs and prams, it’s very difficult. We are physically on site at the moment.

“On one side of the dock we are doing a kind of shopfront regeneration project because some of them felt a little bit tired and underwhelming and we want to retain the independent nature of all the different businesses but stitch the whole place together. So that it feels more cohesive and feels like there’s one vision that we’re trying to consistently roll out.”

Loftus was speaking after taking part in a panel debate organized jointly by Liverpool City Council and the Royal Docks team at Greater London Authority. Also on the panel, chaired by Liverpool chief executive Andrew Lewis, were Dan Bridge, London Royal Docks; Nuala Gallagher, corporate director of city development at Liverpool; and Selina Mason, director of planning at Lendlease.

Loftus went on: “We’ve got some really exciting new businesses that were in advanced stages of signing up that will hopefully be ready to launch to the press in a couple of weeks.

“We’ve just been investing in a lot of mezzanine space above shops, which has sort of been forgotten about for the last 20 years. But the hope is that we’re going to bring a range of different small startup businesses to the dock as well. So we’re creating 30 SME workspace studios which are going to be really cool.”

Liverpool Royal Albert Dock s ing media

An inflatable globe was installed to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest held in Liverpool last year. Credit: Adam Kenrick

“And then I think for me, the, the area that we’re most excited about is how we can activate and bring events culture music, art, and programming to the dock. We want to create reasons for everyone in Liverpool to want to be coming to the dock, weekly, monthly because something really cool is happening.

“There’s no one big intervention here. It’s actually a series of how many small evolutionary steps can we take so that the sum of the parts suddenly feels like we’ve transformed the dock in so many ways, but without revolutionising anything. Every single touch point and encounter you have with the dock, whether it’s from the public realm to the mix of restaurants on offer, to the events, the music to programming, everything feels ‘Wow, this has really taken two steps on. It really feels like there’s one vision behind it. It’s really pushing every front to make the dock as good as it possibly can’.”

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Amazing how they picked up this massive piece of real estate for £40 million, even way back in the 1980s it cost £100m to refurbish.
Good to see though they are improving the site, I thought they could consider a quality ,permanent ,coffee and cakes outlet at the main outer entrance to the dock opposite the Hilton, it could attract even more people as well as provide somewhere for folk to sit inside and get views across the docks.

By Anonymous

It sounds like the Royal Albert Dock is going back to its roots by setting aside space for SME’s as it did in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with the coster monger carts and smaller units before it became just another very corporate eating and shopping destination and all credit to General Projects and Jacob Loftus for doing so. I think that the Royal Albert Dock is one of the unique jewels in Liverpool’s architectural crown and the shopping and eating experience down should certainly be unique and I dare say a bit different too.

By Brendan R

When I – and probably many other readers go on holiday – we go to places like the Albert Dock! It’s on our doorstep. It is a beautiful destination – but seems a bit underused and forgotten about. Good luck to the new owners lets hope they turn it around and make it the place to be! And what it deserves to be. Great idea re quality coffee and cakes – an independent please NOT A CHAIN.

By Lizzy Baggot

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