Liverpool has the oldest resident Chinese population in Europe. In the 1970’s a whole swathe of Chinatown was wiped off the map due to the state some of it’s buildings. But Chinatown is gearing up to be regrown… reborn, as a futuristic hub of Chinese life and business. Whats more it will be in the area vacated by the demolished buildings of the 1970s.
But what does that mean, and are the local Chinese population behind the project?
On the official website the developer behind the scheme, BILT states: “The transformational project is on a site close to the edge of the existing Chinatown, along the frontage of Great George Street. It envisages an exciting new urban quarter comprising up to 1,000 new homes and 200,000 sq ft of new commercial and retail space.”
It actually replaces the earlier TriBeCa scheme by Urban Splash. At the time Urban Splash said their plans were going to be “the biggest inner city housing scheme in Liverpool for a generation”. TriBeCa folded in 2008 because of the financial crisis and most of the land has now been sold on to BILT. Some other parcels of land on site are still in other hands, but Liverpool City Council has stated it will use compulsory purchase orders to buy up all land needed to make New Chinatown happen should it need to.
This project will basically extend the Chinatown we have today, and quite significantly. It is inspired by the shapes of Chinese tradition; origami, and will frame the retained Victorian Wedding house building at the south end with its tallest structures. This will enable a new city gateway and further enhance the scheme’s place making attributes. New Chinatown will flow down to the Blackie and the Chinese arch at the scheme’s northern end with a constant yet gradually decreasing building height, allowing the flow of buildings to merge with the rest of the city centre.
According to plans, part of New Chinatown will try to recreate the hustle and bustle of a Chinese market area by creating a sunken street. This bazaar will feature Chinese businesses, and will transport visitors from Liverpool to the far east. Quite whether that will happen is a matter of opinion.
Visions of Sheffield’s “hole in the road” come to mind, which was conceived by city planners as a way to utilise the space taken up by a roundabout in the busy city centre. In it there were shops and resting areas for visitors, and tunneled entrances to the department stores and more that lay previously out of reach on the other side of the road. What actually happened is that it began to be blighted by on-going anti-social behavior and a lack of upkeep, which eventually lead to the demise of said hole in the road. It was filled in, and that was that. Anybody remember the Lime Street subway? Same problem. They had shops too, but we never saw them open because by the time we were frequenting it they had long closed. Lessons must be learnt from these past examples.
The addition of residential space will be most welcome however. This is a growing area, with the nearby Baltic Triangle district booming with it’s eclectic mix of creative industries, craft breweries, artisan retail, a massive influx of it’s own residential schemes and venues such as Camp & Furnace, Constellations and District. New Chinatown can create a real flow from the RopeWalks to the Baltic in the same way that the Liverpool ONE area has opened up the city centre to the regenerated waterfront areas such as the Albert Dock and the Pier Head. The residential element may help balance out the hazards of the sunken street idea, by creating stewardship and the security of having lots of eyes on the area.
But what will happen to the Dingle? Will this predominantly working class area next door have it’s houses snapped up by investors pushing the rental prices up? Will local people be priced out of an area they have lived in all their lives by an influx of monied individuals with greater disposable income? How will New Chinatown and the Dingle mesh together?
And what of the existing Chinese community? How do they perceive the plans for new Chinatown?
STATUS: Phase 1 was approved by Liverpool city council and is now underway. Readying of the whole site has commenced.
13th January 2016 by