What is happening with Southport’s landmark buildings? And what could they become?
Last year was a perilous time for some of our favourite venues.
Last March saw Debenhams and Beales department stores on Lord Street both shut in March. Places such as the Grand Casino on Lord Street had sat empty and vandalised for years.
Things are looking up for some of them with work taking place – while some exciting investment opportunities remain for others, especially in light of the £38.5million Town Deal funding from the Government.
What would you like to see these buildings become? Please let us know!
1 – Garrick Theatre
Status: Mecca Bingo has announced that its premises on Lord Street in Southport will not be reopening after the national Covid-19 lockdown ends.
The bingo hall has entertained many thousands of guests for eyes down inside one of Lord Street’s grandest buildings, the former Garrick Theatre.
It was built in 1932 and designed by architect George Tonge.
A ‘Save The Garrick Theatre’ campaign has been established.
What it could become: Some have called for it to be reopened as a theatre, while Southport Theatre & Convention Centre is rebuilt; others would like to see it become a casino; a pub; a cinema; or a gym. The former ABC Cinema across the road was converted into apartments three decades ago. Could it become a new living space?
2 – Southport Market
Status: The brand new Southport Market officially opened its doors on Thursday, July 22, in time for a scorching summer of tasty treats, thirst quenching drinks and much more.
All ten stalls and traders, as well as a feature bar and drinks space, have now been confirmed as residents of the North West’s newest food and drink experience, combining an incredible mix of local talent from across Southport and an array of international delicacies at the heart of the resort’s revamped market quarter.
The £1.4m scheme is also supported by a flexible events area able to host high-quality pop-up markets along with other events.
What it could become: A food, drink and events space
3 – Botanic Gardens Museum
Status: Botanic Gardens Museum was opened in 1876.
The famous showman Phineas T. Barnum was an advisor in the construction of the museum, and his top hat was on display there.
The Botanic Gardens Museum was closed on 24 April 2011, with its exhibits dispersed. The famous Martin Mere canoe is now displayed in The Atkinson on Lord Street.
What it could become: A living history museum? Function and wedding venue? Hotel?
4 – Beales
Status: The former The new-look Beales on Lord Street in Southport is getting ready to welcome back shoppers this summer!
Building work and fitting out at the department store is currently taking place with a view to opening this August. An extensive staff recruitment process is underway.
The site has a huge history in our town having been a department store for 139 years, home to businesses including Broadbents and Boothroyds.
What it could become: A new department store
5 – BHS
Status: This former department store has been empty and a target for vandalism since BHS closed in April 2016, so great to see it being brought back into use.
Plans have now been revealed to create 30 new aparthotel rooms on the four upper floors, with shops, a restaurant and a bar on the ground floor.
JSM Company Group, based on Fleet Street in Liverpool, is behind the scheme.
Their company Prestige Stay will run the building as an apart hotel.
What it could become: Aparthotel, shops, restaurant and bar.
6 – Debenhams
Status: Now that work is taking place on bringing two of Southport’s former department stores in Beales and BHS back to life – what of Debenhams?
Debenhams on Lord Street closed in March last year, the same month as Beales nearby.
Redevelopment plans further along Lord Street suddenly make this a more attractive proposition for investors.
The building also sits in the burgeoning ‘Northern Quarter’ of Lord Street, while £75million is due to be invested in creating a new ‘Marine Lake Events Centre’ nearby.
What it could become: When the Southport Town Deal consultation took place last year, one of their ‘Big Ideas’ was to convert this building into new co-working office space, café and apartments, which could, in turn, attract more quality restaurants and bars into vacant units nearby.
7 – Victoria Building
Status: Essential repairs have now been carried out at one of Southport’s most historic landmark buildings.
With the new £75million Marine Lake Events Centre due to open nearby and ambitious plans for the Genting Casino site, this site has huge potential.
Sefton Council employed masonry and building conservation specialists Maysand to carry out restoration works at Victoria Baths, which was built during the Victorian era, in a £462,526 project.
The stunning Grade II Listed building, which was once home to the Palm Court and Manhattans nightclubs, has been empty for the past 15 years.
Southport’s ‘new Victoria Baths’, on the Promenade, were opened in 1871 on the site of the original baths with the same name. In addition to the Turkish baths, there were first and second class swimming pools, slipper baths and showers, separate sets of each being provided for men and women. There was also a gymnasium for men. The Turkish baths closed in 1978.
What it could become: Boutique hotel? Luxury spa?
8 – Grand Casino
Status: One of Southport’s most iconic landmarks, The Grand Casino, will be transformed into a five star hotel, a wedding venue, Southport’s very own brewery and a new and exciting fun themed bar, creating 100 new jobs.
Sitting proudly on Lord Street, the venue will be brought back to its former glory by The Mikhail Hotel and Leisure Group.
The building which, of recent, has fallen into disrepair, was reconstructed as The Grand Cinema in 1938 and was formerly Richard Woodhead’s car showroom dating from 1923.
What it could become: Luxury hotel, wedding venue, brewery, fun pub and family entertainment venue.
9 – McDonalds
Status: A leading kebab company is set to transform the former McDonald’s / Co-Operative building on the corner of Eastbank Street and King Street in Southport town centre, creating 30 new jobs.
Doner Kebab – German Doner Kebab has submitted a planning application to Sefton Council to make changes to the historic building. Doner Kebab is a fast food retailer that has created a healthy and nutritionally balanced approach to traditional kebabs.
The popular McDonald’s outlet, which opened in the 1980s, closed in October 2014 and has remained empty ever since.
Bringing the building back into use is a huge boost for the town centre and for the ‘Market Quarter’ of Southport, now that the new Southport Market is also open.
What it could become: German Doner Kebab outlet.
10 – Southport Theatre
Status: Southport Town Deal Board has allocated £30million to create a new Marine Lake Events Centre in the town, with a further £20million pledged by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
The new centre would replace the former Southport Theatre & Convention Centre, which closed in March last year. The theatre was officially opened by Hollywood star Marlene Dietrich in May 1973, with the Floral Hall dating back to the 1930s.
What it could become: New Marine Lake Events Centre
11 – Toad Hall & The Sands Pub
Status: Ainsdale Beach is one of the most stunning beaches in the UK.
The beauty spot is surrounded by beautiful lakes, pine woods and sand dunes too.
The potential for this area is huge – yet sadly, Toad Hall and The Sands pub have sat empty and derelict for years. What would you like to see this area become?
Sefton Council is currently running a public consultation which sets out its vision for improving and investing in facilities at Ainsdale-on-Sea. The consultation will run until 30th September 2021 and asks for views on the wider development of the coastal gateway including the Sands Lake and Hotel area, Toad Hall and Ainsdale Discovery Centre.
What they could become: A new hotel? New apartments? Visitor centre? Restaurant and bar?
13 – Southport Train Station
Status: Is Southport Train Station the ugliest railway station in Britain? It must be close.
As first impressions go for people arriving in Southport, it’s not great.
Last year, an artist’s impression was released of a potential ‘transport interchange’ to replace the current concrete carbuncle, which itself replaced the much more elegant Chapel Street Train Station.
The spectacular state-of-the-art interchange facility would include facilities for train / bus / pedestrian / and cycle.
The scheme would also include a new multi-storey car park, offices, cafes and convenience shops.
Sadly, it was not progressed under the final Southport Town Deal submission – let’s hope these ideas haven’t gone for good.
What it could become: Rail, bus, cycling and walking transport hub
14 – Genting Casino
Status: A new landmark, the purpose-built Genting Casino building was built in 2008 as part of the Neptune development.
Sadly, it has been empty since Genting announced earlier this year that it would not be opening its Southport site.
Proposals have now been put forward by Bliss Investment Partners for a new mixed-use development on the site which would include new shops, winter gardens, hotel, leisure, public space and more, with views down towards the Marine Lake rather than blocking off the view.
The firm has released images which reveal how a multi-million pound investment could transform the Waterfront area of Southport and create a new destination to rival the best in Europe.
What it could become: New multi-use development with a new hotel, shops, winter garden, and leisure uses.
15 – The Hesketh Centre
Status: The Hesketh Centre on Albert Road, near Hesketh Park, has been empty and boarded up since all of the remaining outpatient services there were transferred to Hartley Hospital from 11 December, 2020.
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust successfully moved inpatients to the new £21million “state of the art” Hartley Hospital on Curzon Road from the previous Hesketh Centre site.
‘Hesketh park Hydro’ was once described as ‘Southport’s Premier Hydro’, being the ‘most comfortable home’ for residents, visitors and patients with ‘unequalled cuisine’, and facilities including: drawing room, billiards room, shaded gardens and tennis courts.
A decision over the future of the Hesketh Centre, in Albert Road, Southport, will be taken once owners Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust assess options for the site.
What it could become: A new hotel? Luxury apartments?
16 – Pumping Station
Status: An historic pumping station with stunning views across Kings Gardens in Southport is up for sale for £100,000.
A planning application to convert the landmark venue into a stylish restaurant and bar was submitted to Sefton Council in April 2017, and was subsequently granted, but this has now lapsed.
The building, on Esplanade, Southport – opposite Morrisons supermarket – was deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ by Sefton Council in 2014. It is now on sale with Fitton Estates in Southport.
What it could become: A restaurant and bar? A quirky new home?
17 – Post Office
Status: Plans to create a new use for the beautiful former Crown Office site on Lord Street in Southport have been approved by Sefton Council.
The historic Grade II building was built before the First World War and thrived as Southport’s main Post Office, but it was controversially closed in 2014 with services moved instead to the first floor of WH Smith on Chapel Street. The building has remained vacant ever since.
The former Post Office forms part of a larger group of buildings within this area of Lord Street including the current Nat West building, all of which date to approximately 1912. It also sits within the Lord Street Conservation area.
A new future now awaits however after Sefton Council approved work on the building by owners Crownworld to create a new use for it.
What it could become: New financial or legal offices? A new restaurant? A Post Office?
18 – Southport Visiter office
Status: The Southport Visiter office on Tulketh Street has been closed since 2016, and has sat empty since then.
Since the closure, Sports Direct invested £3.5million to create a new Sports Direct, Flannels and USC shops, plus an Everlast gym, while refurbishing the multi-storey car park.
What it could become: Proposals were suggested years ago to create a shopping centre above Southport Station and including the Visiter building – a shopping centre? Luxury town centre flats? A new hotel?
19 – Christ Church School
Status: The scaffolding is now up as building work takes place at the new Techedia HQ in Southport town centre.
The firm is carrying out a £1million transformation of the historic Cloisters building, formerly Christ Church School, on Corporation Street.
Tech entrepreneur Matthew Townson has revealed his vision for the new hub, creating 75 new jobs in our town.
The building, most recently occupied by Taskers Sports, will be divided into two units – one for a new health and wellbeing centre, and the other to house Mr Townson’s Techedia firm.
What it could become: Techedia HQ and Health and wellbeing centre
20 – Birkdale Signal Box
Status: One of Southport’s most historic buildings celebrated its 115th birthday last year.
Birkdale Signal Box could definitely do with some care and attention.
This Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway signal box was built in 1905, just four years after the death of Queen Victoria.
They were once a common sight on railway lines across Britain. There were still over 10,000 mechanical boxes in 1948 but numbers then fell to 4,000 by 1970 and perhaps tenth of that today.
Birkdale Signal Box has been given Grade II Listed status because of its lack of alteration over the years. The unmodernised signal box still retains its original windows, lever frame and other rarely surviving features such as the external boardwalk.
What it could become: Historic attraction, cafe