Littlewoods Building clock tower to be dismantled and rebuilt following surveys

Littlewoods Building clock tower

The clock tower at the iconic Littlewoods Building will have to be dismantled and rebuilt before the site is refurbished ahead of its re-birth as a film and TV-led facility.

Manchester developer Capital&Centric is behind the scheme and has conducted investigations into what will be required to make the building structurally sound once more, ready for the final restoration to begin.

It follows a devastating blaze at the site in September 2018.

Teams of engineers surveying the existing buildings have concluded that the tower needs to be dismantled and rebuilt due to decades of it being vacant.

Digital analysis of laser monitoring – placed on the tower to track its movement and condition – has confirmed what engineers suspected, that the tower is unsafe and, if left, could collapse.

A safe zone has now been put in place around the tower, with workers unable to enter that section of the site. It will be carefully taken down in the coming weeks.

The team plans for detailed photographic and survey records to be kept. The intention is to rebuild the tower in the same spot, reusing elements of the original from the overhaul of the site.

CGI of renovated clock tower

A planning application is currently with Liverpool City Council for consideration and will include the rebuilding of the tower.

Capital&Centric is working with the council as freeholder of the site and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as project funders. The combined authority, led by Mayor Steve Rotheram, has committed £17m to the project.

John Moffat, Joint Managing Director at Capital&Centric, said: “We are entering a critical phase of the restoration, as we peel back the layers of the building following decades of it sitting empty. The building is revealing itself and showing us where it needs our input most.

“We’ve explored every option to secure the original tower structure in situ, but the conclusions of several teams of experts have confirmed we need to dismantle it, re-use as much of the material and recreate the tower structure.

“We want to do this soon. If the tower collapsed, it could not only cause severe damage to the rest of the building, but put lives at risk. Our priorities are keeping everyone safe and saving what we can of the buildings, working to minimise the amount of structure needing to be re-built.”

He added: “We’ve restored lots of listed buildings and our experience meant we always anticipated the ongoing remediation would uncover structural challenges. Dismantling the tower will cost more, but it’s a necessary last resort – one that can be covered under the existing project budget.

“It’s likely the building will look quite sorry for itself once the tower section is removed, but it will improve over time as restorative work progresses. Our intention is to record the structure in detail, keep what we can of the materials and rebuild it as part of the re-purposing of the site into a cultural hub for TV and film.

“Elsewhere on site, good progress is being made to clear out the buildings from years of debris and decay and prep the two wings for redevelopment.”

Steve Rotheram said: “The Littlewoods building has been a massive part of the Liverpool community for generations, and I know it holds a special place in the hearts of many of our residents. Throughout this process, we have been committed to preserving the building’s iconic heritage, however, we also need to ensure that it is carefully and safely restored to fulfil their big ambitions we have for its future.

“Our area is already the second most filmed location outside of London and the £17m the combined authority has invested into this project will ensure that Liverpool City Region can continue to cater for every stage of the production process and attract the thousands of jobs and training opportunities it will bring. It is a huge step towards cementing the city region’s status as the Hollywood of the North.”

Work started on site in December last year. Since then, the team has been assessing the condition of the building in stages, peeling away the layers and securing the structural integrity of each section.

Once complete, it will pave the way for main contractors to move in, with two new 20,000 sq ft studios for big budget productions the first to be constructed on the neighbouring land.

Plans submitted to the city council detail how the Littlewoods Project will open up the site to the public for the first time, with landscaped courtyard gardens and a roof terrace, screening and performance zone, and foodhall.

Capital&Centric is currently in talks with a variety of operators interested in taking space at the site, with the vision to transform the 1930s buildings into an internationally-recognised destination for TV and film production.

Damage caused by blaze

The day after the blaze at the Art Deco building, in 2018, Capital&Centric vowed to continue with the project following an inspection of the site.

Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital & Centric, said at the time: “While there is damage to the floor and roof, the walls of the west wing and overall structure seem intact.

“We’ll know more once we can get inside, but we’re extremely hopeful that we’ll be able to save the iconic structure that people see from Edge Lane.

“The building is so important to the social heritage of Liverpool and has always been at the heart of our plans to create a hub for TV and film.

“We won’t let this put us off.”

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