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Knowledge Quarter: the pieces of the jigsaw

Source: PSE Oct/Nov 2018

Liverpool already boasts the best in class when it comes to innovation – but no city can rest on its laurels. Joe Anderson, the city’s mayor, talks about the ongoing development of the Knowledge Quarter Gateway.

Knowledge is power.

It’s an age-old saying, but in the 21st century cities across the world are clamouring to mine the potential of “the information age.” This has translated into the rise of what are being dubbed innovation districts. No modern, forward-thinking city keen on creating clusters of cutting-edge tech companies can be without one.

For Liverpool, we don’t need one. We already have one.

Since the 19th century our hospitals and universities have been clustering “up the hill.” All roads east of Lime Street, Copperas Hill, Brownlow Hill, Mount Pleasant lead to our innovation district. The Knowledge Quarter, as it’s now known.

What makes ours even better than those created from scratch across the globe is that our Knowledge Quarter is also one of our city region’s – if not the north’s – greatest cultural destinations: the cathedrals resplendent at either end of Hope Street and The Everyman Theatre and Liverpool Philharmonic sat proudly along it; Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the Unity Theatre and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, to name but a few.

In Liverpool you can find the best of academia, research, medical care and culture all together. Rubbing shoulders. In one place. Rejoicing.

So that gives us a head start, but other cities are cottoning on to the importance of clustering your innovation assets. Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor, London’s Knowledge Quarter at Kings Cross St Pancras Bloomsbury, and Leeds’s new innovation district are just three examples of many. That means we can’t rest. We can’t be complacent.

Yes, the investment we are already attracting is transformational – over £1bn of new development is underway at the city council’s Paddington Village in the heart of ‘KQ Liverpool.’ And yes, the Royal College of Physicians is to base its new northern HQ here. And yes, a new proton beam cancer therapy centre is to be sited next door.

But “down the hill,” where Liverpool city centre’s train stations transport more than 100,000 people a day, there is no sense of arrival to this phenomenal change. A truly world-class Knowledge Quarter needs a gateway to match. After all, the KQ Liverpool already employs 7% of the city’s workforce – and rising!

And so, instead of resting on our laurels, my regeneration team has appointed an experienced group of planning experts to develop a masterplan for what is being dubbed the Knowledge Quarter Gateway, or KQG.

After a major tendering exercise, we’ve chosen a consortium of three companies to independently develop a spatial regeneration framework (SRF) for the KQG site – which, to give a sense of its scale and importance, covers more than 56 acres within the city centre. This team has been primarily tasked at looking at how best to redevelop the Lime Street area, specifically around the Adelphi Hotel, Central Station, Mount Pleasant and Brownlow Hill. The aim is to dovetail the proposals from Liverpool John Moores University on its Copperas Hill site, plans for the Fabric District, Merseytravel’s proposals for Central Station, and various private-sector schemes such as Circus Liverpool at the old Lewis’s Building.

Indeed, the city council recently acquired the nearby Central Station shopping centre as well as overseeing public realm proposals for St George’s Plateau. We’ve also set out an ambition to redevelop the Mount Pleasant car park area to underpin the gateway.

Clearly, this is placemaking of the highest order – in one of the busiest city centres in Britain. Improving public realm, connectivity and green infrastructure across the area, and bringing underutilised and vacant land/buildings back into productive use, are key elements. As a jigsaw, the pieces are all there – they just need fitting together. The SRF will do just that, and in doing so will unlock a further £500m of investment.

We’ve timetabled the submission of the final SRF report by spring 2019. Once adopted as a spatial planning document, it will become part of the planning authority’s statutory process to inform all future planning applications in the area.

The project is of huge economic significance. It’s also a political priority, with the entire area being designed a Mayoral Development Zone.

Our KQG is vital to this city’s economic future. Its potential will be a game-changer for the city centre and a huge employer across the region – and the north – for generations to come. Its impact cannot be underestimated: targeting new commercial space for tech and digital businesses, alongside futuristic work and education space, it will be a catalyst for much-needed investment.

Knowledge is indeed power. In Liverpool, it’s the fuel running the city’s engine.


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