I’m sat in coach E on the 8.07 service from Euston to Liverpool. It’s Wednesday 9th June. The sun is shining. Chelsea are champions of Europe (again). I’m heading to Liverpool for the opening night at GPO – the brand new 11,000 sq ft food hall at Metquarter.
Queensberry own and asset manage Metquarter. Acquired as a traditional shopping centre, fast forward five years and we’ve repurposed the building and it now houses a mix of education, leisure, retail, wellbeing and restaurant space. The transformation has not been without pain. Although it was purchased in 2016 with the intent of repurposing it the scheme suffered from accelerated decline with the demise of the high street, leading to significant voids before the new vision was complete. The first step in the original plan was the reconfiguration of the Victoria Street end of the scheme to facilitate the inclusion of the 4 screen Everyman cinema.
Notwithstanding the difficulties the retail sector was facing we secured three brilliant retail anchors; Liverpool’s number one luxury fashion retailer, Cricket. The flagship store for the best designer children’s clothing – Kids Cavern and an upsized Hugo Boss. Unfortunately, this only accounted for 40% of the building’s lettable floor area.
We knew the upper floors would not appeal to traditional retailers in the long term so we were targeting suitable alternative uses such as leisure, restaurants, gyms, education and healthcare operators. We learned local Liverpool Media Academy – one of the leading universities for courses in performing arts, media and music in the UK – were expanding. We approached them to consider consolidating their existing campuses in Liverpool in the Metquarter. Conversations developed and we moved quickly to discussing terms and how we could deliver the space in time for start of term in September 2020. It was already April. A few hurdles to get over then including:
Planning permission for change of use from retail to D2 education.
Relocation of existing occupiers to deliver VP.
Physically reconfiguring the space so it was fit for delivering degree courses.
Oh and we’d just gone into lockdown because of a global pandemic…
Cue brilliant solicitors, planning consultants, architects, acoustic technicians, retail delivery team, centre management team, fit out contractor and by October 2020 we had students on campus! Some effort by all involved and suddenly we had 700 students (rising to 1400 for September 2022 intake) on site.
A few lockdowns later and here we are – it’s the grand opening of GPO – a food hall which champions high quality street food and showcase a variety of cuisine in a beautiful airy space. Metquarter is now 90% occupied and GPO are coming into a building full of life and energy. A building which has been reinvigorated despite wider economic issues, a global pandemic and significant sector changes. They will sit alongside the cinema, Urban Calm – a city day spa, our premium retailers, a state of the art university campus and our cafes.
We still have some work to do to bring the last of our strategic goals to a conclusion but this is a great example of revisioning how a building can be used. The sky’s the limit (when you have a good asset manager 🙂