One of Liverpool’s “most cherished iconic” buildings could be brought back into life as a 175-bed hotel and casino.
Almost five years after initial plans were lodged for the George Henry Lee building, proposals have been revived to bring the vacant historic former retail building back into use as a luxury venue. Fresh designs have been submitted to Liverpool Council by new owners Landlab Developments to give it a new purpose.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
A date has yet to be confirmed as to when the plans will be considered by Liverpool Council’s planning department.