Reimagining World-Famous Mathew Street

Hearing of our appointment by Liverpool City Council to produce a landmark vision and investment strategy for the epicentre of Liverpool’s musical heritage was one of those ‘can’t stop from saying it out loud’ “yes” moments. We’d assembled a great, if non-conventional, team for the Mathew Street Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) bid, amongst which enthusiasm for the potential opportunity was palpable.

Planit’s urban designers will work with music historians, destination economists, space-programmers and planners to devise a spatial plan for the area around Mathew Street, home of the world-famous music venues the Cavern Club and Eric’s, and the adjacent Williamson Square. The aim of an accompanying vision document will be to enhance the quality of attractions in the area and expanding the city’s £90m a year music heritage industry – focused around the Beatles – which currently supports over 2,000 jobs. This framework will enable the council to steer the future use of existing buildings and identify opportunities to attract new investment. 

The SRF masterplan will explore a number of aspects in consultation with stakeholders, local businesses and residents.

  • A more diverse mix of complimentary building uses that could operate throughout the day and evening.
  • An enhanced and more coordinated music tourism offer, focused on Liverpool’s recently awarded UNESCO World City of Music status, with enhanced visitor attractions and interpretation.
  • The redevelopment of derelict, under-used and undesirable buildings and sites.
  • A diverse and inclusive programme for Williamson Square and the Playhouse Theatre.
  • A comprehensive public art strategy, building upon the significant investment LCC has made in the public realm over the last decade.
  • A way-finding strategy to make the neighbourhood more legible and permeable.
  • Active ground floor uses to create a more vibrant and inviting environment – with an equitable focus on the citizens of Liverpool alongside our international visitors.
  • Defining a clearer network of streets and squares – focused on the pedestrian experience.

Liverpool’s hotel sector is currently booming, with occupancy levels at record breaking levels, and the number of hotel rooms across the city set to grow by 14% to more than 9,300 over the next two years. A recent economic impact study also found that the city’s Beatles related industry has been growing at 5-15% a year following the city’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 with Cavern City Tours and the Cavern Club alone now attracting 800,000 visitors per annum and 80% of the Hard Day’s Night Hotel guests classed as international. But a tourism report has found visitors are increasingly looking for a quality experiential visit and there is a clear need to curate not just a Beatles Heritage offer, but a clearer proposition around Liverpool’s status as a city with a pivotal role in the story of popular and contemporary music.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, who has also created a Beatles Legacy group, said: “Liverpool’s musical heritage is known around the world, but we can and must do more to showcase it to visitors who travel thousands of miles from all corners of the globe because of it. This is about enhancing and expanding what we already have, particularly around Mathew Street which has been at the heart of the city’s music scene for decades, with venues such as Eric’s and the Iron Door being as influential as the Cavern Club. This is a unique opportunity to establish an experience no other city can offer, with high quality design which will sustain thousands of jobs in the hotel, retail and hospitality sectors for generations to come.”

Peter Hooton, Chair of The Beatles Legacy Group, said: “Carl Jung famously said that Liverpool is the pool of life, and it is fitting that he is immortalised on Mathew Street, which has been the beating heart of the city’s music scene for generations. There is a huge amount of untapped potential around the city’s pivotal role in music, which is why it is vital we seize this opportunity to make the most of it.”

Bill Addy, Chief Executive of Liverpool BID Company, which represents 1,500 businesses in Liverpool city centre, added: “Mathew Street is one of the city’s key assets and without doubt one of the world’s most iconic music heritage sites. The Cavern Quarter sits within the Retail and Leisure BID. Our levy payers located there are determined to improve the visitor offer in the area and I know there has been a concerted effort over the years by the private sector to invest in projects and initiatives to achieve this. We welcome the SRF and the opportunity it presents in working together to maximise the area’s potential for the good of businesses and visitors alike.”

The Planit-led team includes Arup (Planners), Fourth Street Consulting (Destination Development and Economics), GVA (Property), Dave Pichilingi (Music History and Event Planning) and Rob Burns (Heritage); assembled not just for their experience in producing design and planning guidance but also their knowledge and passion for Liverpool and its wider musical heritage.

This is no ordinary planning project, where we might focus on how a place will look, but rather how to enable Liverpool to showcase its rightful status as the most influential music city on the planet; sharing both the local and global appeal of the Beatles and the immense cannon of Liverpool bands, singers and their music. Building our team around a music legend Dave Pichilingi (founder of Sound City), gives us an insight into how other World Music Cities – Hamburg, Nashville, Berlin and Austin, Texas for instance – use their most famous musicians or genres as a catalyst to wider and more diverse audiences. This is about harnessing the power of the Beatles to add unassailable resilience to Liverpool’s global brand.

Once produced, the draft SRF will be subject to a formal consultation period that will be undertaken over a period of six weeks in the new year. Feedback will influence the final draft of the document before the City Council considers formal adoption.