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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 05:39 GMT
Paradise - a work in progress
by Julia Houston
BBC News, Liverpool

An artist's impression of the completed Paradise Project
The development covers an area of 42 acres
For years, it has been one of the UK's most recognisable skylines.

Famous for landmarks such as the Liver Buildings and the Anglican Cathedral, one of Liverpool's proudest boasts is that the distinctive cityscape was many travellers' first - or last - view of Britain.

But now this scene, with its giant reminders of past prosperity, is changing fast.

In Liverpool 2005, towering cranes appear everywhere, helping to forge a bold new vista that will alter the face of the city for good.

A vast building site has opened up between the Albert Dock, another of the city's blasts from the past, and Paradise Street.

Aerial view of the Paradise Project

But look beyond the dust, the digging and the disruption, and you'll see the renaissance of a city.

At the heart of this revival is the Paradise Project, an ambitious 920m plan to draw visitors back down the M62 to live, work, socialise and shop.

The project centres on a 42-acre site which will modernise the city centre, pulling together the different areas of the city on the former site of Chevasse Park.

Project leaders Grosvenor are creating new look streets, squares and public spaces, working with the protected historic buildings and existing shopping districts to make a new-look Liverpool.

An artist's impression of Herbert's new hairdressing salon building
The plan is to put Liverpool in the top five UK shopping cities
One year after work on the project began, Grosvenor say they are working to schedule, opening the new Paradise Street bus interchange last week.

Paradise Project director Rod Holmes wants to put Liverpool back in the top five retail destinations in the UK. At the end of this regeneration, he says, people won't be heading out of town to do their shopping anymore.

Currently, despite the presence of independent stores, such as footballers' wives' favourite Cricket, all too often the city's fashion addicts have to trek 40 miles to Manchester for the most exclusive brand names.

Retailers already signed up to the development include cornerstone department stores Debenhams, who are currently without a Liverpool base, and John Lewis, who are moving from their Basnett Street home to a bigger, shinier store.

As far as keeping shoppers in the city, lovers of designer labels may feel they still need to travel to Manchester or Leeds, where Selfridges and Harvey Nichols dominate the upper class end of the market.

We want to open up the docklands area
Rod Holmes

But Mr Holmes insisted part of the Paradise Project would be aimed at the well-heeled shopper.

He said the "boutique" area would be housed in a narrow arcade, designed by the architects behind the London's Royal Opera House, Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones with BDP.

One of the unique aspects of this project is Grosvenor's commitment to retaining the city's historical Victorian buildings.

Rather than house the city's shops in one undercover metropolis, the Paradise Project wants to keep the character of Liverpool intact, with plenty of green space in the city centre.

"The development has a part-covered two-level shopping street, to shelter shoppers from the worst of the weather," he said.

"The paved area in between will look out to the park and down to the docks. We want to open up the docklands area and encourage people to go down to the waterfront."

The project includes an information centre telling people about the city's history and role as the number one European slave port in the 18th Century.

Part of the old dock wall has been excavated and preserved, and will form a central part of the information centre.

The project may be moving the city forward, but it's certainly not forgetting its past.

Buses bid a farewell to paradise
11 Nov 05 |  Merseyside
Developers praise city's design
01 Sep 05 |  Merseyside
Work begins on city's 'paradise'
22 Nov 04 |  Merseyside
City wins World Heritage status
02 Jul 04 |  Merseyside
Paradise lost for shopping centre
19 May 04 |  Merseyside
700m deal for city revamp
31 Jan 03 |  England


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