Fried Chicken

Liverpool Life I spent this evening at the FACT centre attending a public progress report for the Paradise Project, the big dig and restructuring work that's taking place in Liverpool of late which will result in a massive increase in the commercial, business and leisure facilities in the city centre. I wasn't the only member of the Liverpool blogging fraternity in attendance -- Ian from Art and Culture In Liverpool and Pete from Vanillia Days were also there to see what the contractors, Grosvenor had to say.

Apparently only a third of the expected audience appeared which is a shame because although sections did have a whiff of an architectural conference (particularly a cute moment when one of the managers of the project became very enthusiastic about the stone being deployed in one of the buildings) it was a very positive experience which even manage to somehow persuade even this cynic that it was all going to be worth it.

The upshot the project will be somewhat like that which was achieved in Birmingham around the Bullring area and in Cardiff's waterfront although in what seems like a much larger scale. The aim of the project was to retain it within the tone of the existing city and so rather than creating one giant shopping mall divorced from the existing shopping area, this is to be essentially a remake of the existing neighbourhood in keeping with the fabric of the place, attempting finally to unify the waterfront and business quarters with the city centre.

Many slides were shown of how old areas will look renewed and how new shopping areas featuring traditional names will be springing up. Some very innovative shopping units are to be installed with many new shapes of stairs and escalators and lifts taking people between then. Wonderfully, one relief featuring the new version Chervase Park looked like something from The Jetsons. Of course it's not difficult to offer it as yet another example of the homogenization of the city centre, of every city essentially having the same high street chain stores, but to see that the shopping experience I've traveled to enjoy will be on the doorstep (assuming I don't ironically find a job elsewhere) is pretty exciting. I mean a Wagamamas a bus ride away. Yeh!

The conference and arena centre looks particularly impressive and is apparently already booked up for years even though it hasn't even been completed yet. Liverpool has really lacked for a decent venue for many years and suddenly within six months there will be the potential that big stadium music acts will be plying their trade within walking distance (theoretically) of home. No more dolefully looking at the The Guide and noting that yet again the likes of Alanis are skipping our company.

My only reservation is the extent to which all of this benefits local people. There will apparently be 4-5000 new jobs available in the area, but the vast majority of there are in the cleaning and service industries, precisely the economic bracket that won't be able to afford to shop in what were highlighted as designer retailers. This is a repeat of a problem, which has been highlighted in economic models since the nineties and it's a disappointment that it'll potentially be repeated here.

In addition, lip service could be made about the millions of pounds of investment that are being spent in a relatively small area when there are deprived areas of the city that are slowly rotting. Whilst I understand that raising our financial profile has remunerations that might eventually seep into the local economy, some thought could have been given to making sure that everyone understands the benefits upfront and the best way to do that would have been to spread some of the investment wider than the city centre so that it doesn't look like a lot of money is being spent to benefit a proportionally smaller percentage of the people. But as I said I'm convinced and I can't wait to see what this new area of Liverpool looks like in the stone.

[For the interested, about the only presentation disaster this evening was the music that accompanied the publicity videos. There was a really exciting time lapse film of buildings springing up all over the building site which begged for a bit of Wagner but was instead escorted by something my own notes described as 'a cheesy 80s synthesizer mistake' but really it was more like Paddy Kingsland from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop had drunk a few too many bottles of wine at the departmental party, broken into the office in the wee smalls and tried to rerecord a John Michel Jarre track with his eyes closed and his face leaning against the keyboard.

The other was the final 'hard sell' video, a flashing CG info burst which whizzed about to the tune of Queen's One Vision (because the finished product will be called Liverpool One - see what they did there?). Yes, it sounded dated and clich├ęd and some people were walking out (except me -- I waited for the bit when Freddy shouts 'fried chicken'). Not that they were necessarily walking out because of the music -- it could have been the lure of free drinks available afterwards. But if they were going to use a Queen track, why not 'We Will Rock You' or 'Heaven for Everyone'?]

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