VIDEO | Can Littlewoods be an ‘advert for Liverpool’s resurgence’?
The Littlewoods Building in Liverpool has been derelict for decades – and it shows.
Those in attendance at an event marking the start of the building’s long-awaited redevelopment into a campus for the film and TV industry were not allowed inside, and for good reason.
Behind the crumbling, off-white façade of the former headquarters of the Littlewoods football pools is the legacy of years of neglect; a Kerplunk-style mess of mangled metal, a collapsed roof, and smoke-scorched walls.
A lack of progress in bringing one of Liverpool’s best-loved buildings back to life has made sceptics out of many.
The rejuvenation project, being led by Capital&Centric and designed by ShedKM and Planit, has been in the pipeline since 2012, way before a fire ripped through part of the building in 2018.
After years of false dawns, the sun seems finally to be shining on this scheme.
Plans have now been submitted for the refurbishment of the 260,000 sq ft building and construction of two new 20,000 sq ft studios on adjoining land, while a six-month package of remediation began yesterday.
Watch the video on our YouTube channel, and at the top of this story to see what the building looks like today
“We’ve had challenges along the way, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t think we’ve ever doubted that this building will come forward for regeneration,” said John Moffat, managing director at Capital&Centric.
“It’s too iconic, it’s too important to the city to just walk away and leave it.”
It seems as if almost every scouser worked at Littlewoods at one point or at least knew someone who did.
Born and raised in Toxteth, Moffat is no different.
“My wife’s grandmother actually used to work in that building so it has a personal connection. As it does with everyone in the city,” Moffat said.
“16m people drive past this building every year into the city. So what a great advert for the resurgence of Liverpool, to have this building brought back to life and brought back to economic gain.”
Once complete, the scheme could provide jobs for 4,000 people and generate £200m annually for the local economy. It will be transformed into the bustling centrepiece of Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s vision to turn Liverpool City Region into the Hollywood of the North.
Last month, Rotheram said Liverpool must tackle the scourge of stalled sites that plagues the city as part of a three-step plan for a brighter future.
Some of those sites are in private ownership, making it tough for the city council or city region to intervene. Littlewoods is owned by the city, which means there is no excuse not to.
Rotheram hopes that getting Littlewoods going after the tumult that ensued following Max Caller’s fateful report into dysfunction at the city council sends a message about Liverpool’s future. That the inertia has been broken and it is time to look forward, not back.
“We need to restore confidence in investors that you can come to Liverpool and the whole city region, and you will be able to work with good partners,” he said.
“I think once people see this, it will give the catalytic value for other stalled sites across the city and we’ll start to see them coming forward. Then the whole thing then gathers builds momentum.”
It is hard to stand in front of the forlorn shell of a former Liverpool icon and not draw parallels with the city itself. Both have seen better days and are in need of a boost.
Cllr Liam Robinson, leader of Liverpool City Council, described the beginning of the Littlewoods project as a “watershed moment for Liverpool’s TV and film industry”. Perhaps more important at this stage is the message it sends to the market.
“It marks the end of all the talking about the vision for this iconic site and the beginning of the action to make the dream a reality,” He said.
Robinson is right. It is action on high-profile projects such as this – rather than positive rhetoric coming from the Cunard Building – that will fix the reputational damage the city has suffered in recent years.