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Old Liverpool warehouse to become modern tech hub

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, Liverpool was the leading port in the world, importing vast quantities of goods between the Uk and the new world across the Atlantic. Back then, its many dockside warehouses were crucial storage areas for this thriving trade.

The story of those warehouses in modern times has been the story of the city; changing patterns of trade have meant Liverpool has increasingly been a port facing the wrong way. The economic decline has brought joblessness, dereliction and blight.

However, efforts to revive the economy of the city by redeveloping its docklands have been stepped up in recent years and the latest new project in the Baltic Triangle area will seek to make the most of the space offered by one of its empty Victorian storehouses.

The Baltic Creative Community Interest Company has managed to secure £2.6 million in funding from the Charity Bank and European Regional Development Fund to buy the four-storey red brick building occupying 61-65 Norfolk Street from the city council and transform it. The investment also includes an adjacent two-storey building on Simpson Street, which has been acquired on a 125-year lease.
For years this building has been derelict and is now in a poor state of repair, but with the help of architects K2, its interior is to be dramatically transformed once the important structural repair work has been carried out. Baltic Creative plan to "sensitively refurbish" the building to create a "flexible modern workspace". The ambition is to make it into the Baltic Triangle's first tech hub, helping enable this part of the city to benefit from the growth of new industries like fintech, eHealth and big data.

This will certainly provide plenty of work for insulation fitters and waterproofing contractors as they equip the empty shell with a range of new internal walls to create small meeting rooms and workshops, as well as larger shared workplaces. There will also need to be washroom facilities and kitchens to help cate modern working environments. The work is scheduled to start in December and be completed in 2019. 

Describing the renovation work, K2 director Kevin Horner said: "It's important to note that, while part of the building is structurally unsound with sections in considerable disrepair, it does have notable architectural and aesthetic merit.

"Therefore we, along with Baltic Creative, are passionate about maintaining the historic fabric of the building and intend to preserve as much of the original construction as is structurally possible."

Naturally enough, the city council is delighted with the way the building is being re-used. Deputy mayor Cllr Ann O’Byrne said: "Liverpool City Council is really pleased to see this beautiful old building brought back into use by Baltic Creative who continue to encourage the regeneration and transformation of the Baltic Triangle area.

"The creative and digital sector is having a significant impact on the Liverpool City Region economy and this development will help create the space required to attract and support more high growth businesses and high value jobs."

Redeveloping old dockland buildings would appear to make perfect sense. After all, the same process has already happened around the Albert Dock to the north of the Baltic Triangle, as well as in other cities with dockland areas, like Salford at the other end of the Manchester Ship Canal. 

However, not everyone is happy with the plans. In 2004 Unesco made Liverpool's 'Maritime Mercantile City' a World Heritage site, a feather in the cap of the local tourism industry, but a problem for developers in recent years. Concerns that shiny new steel and glass offices and homes might irrevocably alter the character of the docklands have led to Unesco placing the site on it's 'at risk' list.