Plans to convert one of Liverpool’s “most cherished” buildings into a hotel and casino could be confirmed next week.
After laying dormant for years, the former George Henry Lee building on Basnett Street could be given a new lease of life as fresh plans go before Liverpool Council’s planning committee.
New designs by owners Landlab Developments to convert the historic site into a 175-bed venue will go before councillors next Tuesday.
Back in 2019, the city council approved a similar application subject to the signing of a legal agreement. As that has now expired, the building – which was previously home to John Lewis – has been mostly vacant since the business left.
According to documents made available by the local authority, Landlab’s application seeks to transform the historic former department store into a designer hotel under the Accor Mama Shelter brand, making it the first of its kind outside London. It is hoped the application could also bring 150 jobs.
A design and access statement said despite the site once being a “very grand” department store, the interior of the building is currently in a very poor condition having gone through what is described as “a number of ad-hoc alterations, piecemeal demolitions and extensions here and there.” Among the other additions proposed in the new documents include a games bar, sports bar, karaoke booths, cinema screens and a gym across nine floors.
George Henry Lee opened his first shop in Basnett Street in 1853 and the business eventually grew into one of the north’s top department stores, with a striking building to match. It was bought by John Lewis in 1940.
In the 1960s the existing store was merged with the Bon Marche store next door, which faced onto Church Street. In 2002, the old George Henry Lee name was dropped and the store became John Lewis.
In just six years, John Lewis left for a new home in Liverpool ONE. The old Bon Marche building became a TK Maxx, while the original George Henry Lee building was taken over by Rapid Hardware.
The documents said, “The stylish shopfront of the former George Henry Lee department store to Basnett Street and Houghton Street will be retained and brought back into full use, including the sequence of entrances that punctuate the street frontage.”
It added, “In terms of social benefits, again the proposal will efficiently reuse a fine historic building. The building will be subject to investment, repair and refurbishment, sustaining it for future generations, and providing active frontage and vitality through the day and night.”
Two letters of objection have been sent to the council’s planning department, on behalf of TK Maxx. They said there had been a “lack of information on the servicing solution for the proposed development, including how this will ensure that there is no adverse impact on the operation of the surrounding road network, surrounding occupiers, and highway safety” as well as concerns “regarding the construction of the proposed development, including how this will ensure that the security, and amenity of surrounding occupiers is not adversely affected.”
The proposals have been backed by ward councillors Nick Small and Christine Banks, who support the scheme “on the grounds that this is an important building in the city that has been empty for some time and has limited prospect of continuing to have an economic purpose for retail given the changes to the world of retail and growth of Liverpool One.”
Their statement added, “Repurposing the building as a hotel will help maintain footfall in the Church Street area, supporting existing retail and leisure uses elsewhere, as well as bringing an important building back into use.”