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Joining the ranks
Published:  14 December, 2007

The largest urban regeneration project currently under way in Europe, Liverpool One, is due to open in May, transforming with it the heart of the city centre.

The mixed-use development incorporates four distinct retail districts, plus leisure and catering over the 42-acre site. Each district will offer top retail brands, residential accommodation and leisure facilities.

The scheme is home to over 160 shops, including a new 240,000-sq ft John Lewis store and the city's first Debenhams. Currently, 75 per cent of the total scheme is either signed or in solicitors hands.

The first phase, west of Paradise Street, will open in May, comprising approximately 920,000 sq ft, including the two department stores, around 70 shops and all 3,000 car parking spaces.

In September, the second retail phase will open comprising the shops east of Paradise Street, the Odeon cinema, approximately 24 cafés, bars and restaurants and a five-acre park

Peter's Lane, an exclusive fashion- and design-led quarter set around a covered arcade, which will open in September, has recently announced deals with leading premium fashion and accessory retailers Jigsaw, Radley and Fred Perry. These join a current line-up which includes Ted Baker, Jones and Reiss.

Neil Barber, head of retail leasing at Grosvenor, says: "Liverpool One's catchment area spends more per head on fashion than any other city, including Manchester. Jigsaw, Radley and Fred Perry join a number of key brands in Peter's Lane, creating a critical mass of high-end fashion.

"The commitment of these retailers is a testament to the strength of Liverpool One and the spend and aspirations of the catchment area."

The scheme is predicted to take Liverpool into fifth place on CACI's retail rankings. Barber says: "Back in the 1960s and 70s Liverpool was in third place but it's back in the early teens now so it will be good to have it in its rightful place as the fifth top city.

"Liverpool offers so much: art galleries and museums, music history with The Beatles, sports, Aintree and the waterfront. That's why we thought it needed this sort of approach."

At the moment Liverpool is losing shoppers to the likes of Cheshire and The Trafford Centre which have a broader offer and good transport links. Liverpool One, however, will completely rejuvinate the city's retail offer and public realm. Unlike a covered shopping mall, the centre builds on the city's unique characteristics, creating a destination of regional, national and international significance. Next year Liverpool will be European Capital of Culture so all development works were brought forward to meet a 2008 opening.

The scheme has been built around a series of existing streets, such as Paradise Street, Hanover Street and South John Street, and the design incorporates 30 new and existing buildings, designed by 20 different architects.

Paradise Street is a funky and chic European style boulevard with double height retail units, housing retailers such as New Look, USC, Sony and Virgin. Hanover Street is lifestyle-focused shopping together with delicatessens, bars, cafés and food stores. South John Street offers family shopping, from John Lewis at one end to Debenhams at the other. Other retailers include Oasis, Jane Norman, Esprit, and Faith.

"The principal focus is South John Street at the moment so we're ready for a May opening," says Barber.

In addition, Chavasse Park provides a landscaped five-acre open space that will act as Liverpool's new 'living room', with restaurants and bars overlooking the park.

The scheme is also bringing the whole city together, linking the retail element of the city to the waterside docks. "The city centre is very compact," says Barber. "From Lime Street Station to Albert Dock is just a short walk."

With just five months to go until the first phase opens, Barber expects the scheme to be as near to 100 per cent let as possible. "We're focused on the tenant mix and quality of that mix," he says. "We realise that some brands might want to wait until we're open before they commit.

"We're very confident about the actual product and can't wait to open the streets."