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Multinational entertainment giant leases historic Liverpool building after Combined Authority funding for refurbishment

A multinational entertainment giant has leased one of Liverpool City Region’s most historic buildings – after the Combined Authority invested nearly £5m into refurbishing the site.

Work on the Grade II building that housed Liverpool’s first public library on Duke Street was completed with the help of nearly £5m from two Liverpool City Region Combined Authority investment funds.

The money has now been repaid in full – ready for the Combined Authority to invest in other schemes that will help drive the city region’s economy. And the major corporate giant has taken out an 11.5-year tenancy of the entire 50,000 sq ft Duke & Parr building, which has capacity for up to 400 employees.

The tenancy deal was reached by property developer and asset manager CERT Property for its recently completed speculative office refurbishment in Liverpool City Centre, Duke & Parr – the former Bibby Line headquarters.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority contributed just over £5m to the refurbishment of this historic building, with £2.96m from its Urban Development Fund and £2.1m from its Chrysalis Fund. This funding unlocked the project at a time when commercial funding was not available. A refinancing agreement is now in place which has enabled those loans to be repaid into the two funds, making them available to support further city region projects.

The letting deal is the largest office transaction in Liverpool for 3 years and offers the potential for new creative jobs in the region.

Commenting on the lease, Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“Devolution has given us the opportunity to drive transformational regeneration projects right across the city region – breathing new life into buildings and places that have existed in our communities for decades, but, for different reasons might not have been used to their full potential.

“We’ve injected huge investments into property, regeneration and sustainability projects through our £35m Chrysalis Fund, which has generated more than £100m worth of development activity – creating and sustaining hundreds of jobs.

“Hopefully, the £5 million we’ve awarded to this development will create a first-class space in the city to grow and develop – and continue to supercharge our area’s credentials as a leading tech cluster.”

Councillor Janette Williamson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and the Third Sector, said: “This is a great example of how investment from the Combined Authority can unlock projects that help drive growth and regeneration. It is fantastic to see this historic old building given a new lease of life at the heart of our thriving digital and creative sector. And the fact that our £5m investment has already been repaid means that we can put that money to work again, creating jobs and opportunities for local people.”

Situated in the Ropewalks area of Liverpool, Duke & Parr has been transformed into a progressive workspace.

Commenting on the letting, CERT Property Founder Howard Lord said:

“We began construction of Duke & Parr in April 2020, right at the height of the pandemic, at the time there was a whole shift in perspective in the way in which we work. It became clear that the office was no longer a core necessity to employees and businesses. People began evaluating their workspace, comparing the benefits of working from home with the nature of the traditional office. Understanding this, we wanted to create a property which viewed the office as a destination – a creative hub which inspires and connects people.

“This lease with a world-leading games and entertainment giant is testament to the team who worked with us on this project to deliver the vision we had to create an inspiring workplace that would attract occupiers in the post-pandemic role of the workplace.”

Robert Wood, the Fund Manager for Chrysalis at igloo Investment Management said:

“This refurbishment risked becoming a potential victim of the pandemic when the previous lenders withdrew their support from the project. Risk aversion from traditional lenders was heightening throughout Covid 19. That allowed the UDF Funds to intervene and provide a lending facility which enabled the developer to proceed as planned and deliver a building fit for purpose. This is exactly what the UDF Funds are set up to do: stimulate and support job creating regeneration projects across the City Region”.

CERT’s successful renovation of the historic building has been shortlisted for several property awards including Property Week’s Property Awards, North-West Business Insider’s Commercial Property Awards, and the Liverpool City Region Property Awards. CERT sensitively removed the superficial 1990s additions of previous occupiers, showcasing historical 1800s features.

These include an original staircase reinstated between the basement and atrium that was previously covered; restoration of original listed columns; removal of suspended ceilings to expose original features, even original wallpapers; repair of the boardroom’s wooden ceiling; original safes in the basement revealed and original fireplaces restored. CERT also stripped back and stained the parquet flooring in reception, and restored terrazzo flooring in the basement and building entrances creating an interior which complements the building’s grandeur.