One of my favourite “things to do” when I visit Liverpool is to walk the triangle that is Bold Street, Renshaw and Ranelagh Street with my camera taking in the atmosphere of what is known as the Ropewalks area, photographing the buildings, the details and the shadows, and shooting candids of the characters bustling or busking, rushing or chilling. The place is a street photographer’s dream.
When I first heard that there was to be a major ‘Liverpool One’ style redevelopment of the area my heart sank. I imagined all those quaint shops being replaced by ‘modern’ frontages and that the unique character of the area would be destroyed forever.
Founded in 1856 by David Lewis and with branches all across England, Lewis’s finally closed its doors to the public in May 2010. The Luftwaffe had destroyed the original building during the war, but a new Lewis’s building was raised out of those ashes and was standing proud once again by the early 1950s. How sad if it was to be flattened less than seventy years later!
My worries were unfounded. The new Central Village that is currently being built will feature the famous Lewis’s frontage as its kingpin. Yes a whole chunk of the the rear of the building has gone but on Ranelagh Street and Renshaw, the beautiful old fascia remains and will house shops on the ground floor, then offices and with a boutique hotel above.
The former corner entrance to the store will now serve as a walkway into the new complex and Dickie Lewis will remain standing proud over the entrance. (Dickie Lewis is the affectionate name given to Sir Jacob Epstein’s statue, Liverpool Resurgent).
The new complex will indeed be impressively modern whilst set within the triangular area between these three streets, built on land which was once the site of the old overground Central Station, waste ground and delivery areas for the nearby shops.
The new Central Village will be home to a diverse array of retail and leisure operators. A 6 screen Odeon cinema, 442 hotel rooms, plus a further 160,000 sq ft of prime space, housing the likes of Costa Coffee, Frankie & Benny’s, Prezzo and Handmade Burger Co, amongst others. There will be 500 parking spaces and of course the fully redeveloped on-site Central Station bringing 17 million passengers annually.
The best way to appreciate what is being created here by developers Merepark and Ballymoreis to watch the fascinating 3D animation produced by Diffuse 3D of Knutsford.
This animation was designed to describe a literal journey through the development helping to explain how the multitude of level changes worked and where some of the key views lay.