NWDA in £3m Liverpool waterfront project bail-out

A LANDMARK waterfront development in Liverpool has been rescued with a £3m bail-out from the North West Development Agency.

Merseytravel, which is due to take the lease on a £46m office building at Mann Island, admitted that without the cash the project would have been in jeopardy.

Last night, Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales said he was "very grateful" to the Agency for the grant to enable the project to proceed.

Steve Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said the agency had invested £50m in the city’s waterfront and was vital its development did not lose momentum.

Neptune Developments, which is building the office block, said the project would now remain on target for completion in early 2011.

In January, Merseytravel signed a 30-year lease on the 140,000 sq ft building for it to become its new headquarters.

The transport authority was originally due to occupy the entire 11-storey building, but, due to an efficiency drive, which will include job losses, no longer requires three floors.

Mr Scales said: "We did look at chopping three floors off, but that would have meant going back to planning.

"I think the deal would have been in jeopardy if we had not had the grant. We are very grateful to the development agency for their support."

The building is one of three "granite wedges" being put up next to the Three Graces.

The other two include apartments, shops and restaurants. Last year, the residential elements was sold for £70m to investment group Dylan Harvey in the biggest deal of its type in the city.

The first phase on the residential blocks is due for completion at the end of 2009, and the second phase a year later, while work on Merseytravel’s HQ is expected to start in June.

Last night, the NWDA said the office block would attract 986 high-value jobs, of which 143 were as a consequence of the Agency’s funding.

Mr Broomhead said: "It is important that, during the current economic downturn, private investors remain confident in the Northwest’s regeneration schemes and its ability to persevere with projects in the most adverse economic situations.

"The £3m injection will enable the project to be completed with little disturbance, allowing private businesses to take advantage of the location and create a welcome number of jobs for the region’s workforce.

"The NWDA has invested well over £50m in the redevelopment of the Liverpool waterfron, and it is vital that we don’t lose momentum and we do everything we can to ensure that this development on our World Heritage site is completed as soon as possible."

Jim Gill, chief executive of regeneration agency Liverpool Vision, said the scheme was excellent and complements the wider regeneration of the waterfront. He added: "As a result of Mann Island regeneration, there will be an additional 140,000 sq ft of office space and 76,000 sq ft of leisure and retail space and this investment support is most welcome."

Rob Mason, Neptune’s development director, said: "We would like to thank the NWDA for this grant which is enabling us to deliver the three extra floors of Grade A commercial office space, an additional 33,000 sq ft, all on programme.

"The Mann Island development is of such a high quality, and in such a prestigious location, that we expect interest to be very high in this commercial space, and also in the 50,000 sq ft of leisure and retail space available.

"Currently, the scheme is on programme for completion in spring, 2011."