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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Regeneration: The culture killer
Starbucks shop
Starbucks is the kind of franchise which can sap authenticity
Winning Capital City of Culture could be a double-edged sword for Liverpool.

The flood of franchised businesses which often follow regeneration projects can turn buzzing areas into bland ones.

That is the conclusion of a report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the independent think-tank Demos, which is due to be published in August.

It found that investment into areas such as Liverpool risks driving out creative businesses and individuals by pricing them out of the market.

"Cities are often guilty of killing the goose that laid the golden egg by allowing the creative heart of a city to be smothered by commercial development," said Louis Armstrong, chief executive of RICS.

The report's author Anna Minton cites Liverpool's Bold Street as an area which could be at risk.

Artist Damien Hirst
No self-respecting artist would live in Hoxton now
Anna Minton

"At the moment it is known for its independent art and books shops but already larger bars, like the Australian themed Walkabout, are moving in.

"It is ironic but it is areas like that which won Liverpool the title but if the city planners are not careful, it will become full of franchises and its character will be gone."

That is exactly what has happened in Hoxton in London's east end, says Ms Minton.

Once home to Brit art stars including Damien Hirst, it became trendy, then gentrified and today "no self-respecting artist would live there".

"A flat in Hoxton Square is a quarter of a million pounds now so the artists have been priced out.

"Mainstream chains have moved in and the essential character of the area has been destroyed. And it happened very quickly," said Ms Minton.

'Franchised towns'

She said the same could be said for Soho in the centre of London and New York's Greenwich Village.

In San Francisco, the precipitation of chain businesses has sparked demonstrations.

The city council put a moratorium on loft developments after a Gap store opened at the Height Ashbury intersection, the heart of the city's famous bohemian quarter.

In Dublin, the Temple District was the centre of the city's fashionable music and media scene in the early 1990s.

But following its tenure as European Capital of Culture in 1991, it has been replaced as a mecca for stag parties.

The RICS report will urge Liverpool to take steps now to stop the same thing happening.

"Without a doubt the Capital of Culture concept is going to do a great deal for Liverpool - it was an enormous boost for Glasgow," said Ms Minton.

"But they have to ensure they keep the genuine creativity where they can."

She said the city needs to get strategies in place before the cash starts rolling in, including providing subsidised rents for unique and independent businesses and artists.

Otherwise the city risks becoming just another "franchised town" and it will lose the authenticity which made it special in the first place.

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