Upper floors of Liverpool shopping centre set to become a college

The upper floors of a Liverpool shopping centre could become a college for hundreds of students under plans submitted to the city council this week.

A significant part of the Metquarter, on Whitechapel in the city centre, would be converted into teaching rooms, recording studios and common areas for students under proposals that would see Liverpool Media Academy move into the building.

The academy, currently based on Duke Street, opened in 2009 and offers courses in film and television, games animation, acting, dance, musical theatre and music.

According to LMA, its student numbers have ballooned from 18 when it opened to more than 600 today and caused it to consider expansion to both a new site in Liverpool and a second campus in London.

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CGIs of Liverpool Media Academys proposed new campus in the Met Quarter, Liverpool (Credit: K2 Architects)

A report submitted with the planning application says LMA's use of the upper floors for performances and rehearsals could increase footfall to the Metquarter, warning the centre has "fallen behind" Liverpool One as a retail destination in recent years.

The report says: "LMA’s use of the space for a variety of teaching, performance and rehearsal activities, alongside pop up cafes, performances and community events will create much needed activity and thus footfall within the centre.

"There will be no restriction on public movement through the space and shoppers, visitors and other users of the city centre will be able to experience activity and experiences that will enhance the vitality and viability of the centre."

The Metquarter opened in 2006, shortly before Liverpool One, and secured a number of high end tenants.

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However, it has struggled to fill all of its retail outlets in recent year amid significant competition within the city centre and a move away from bricks and mortar locations for many retail brands.

A revamp of the centre in 2018 saw the boutique Everyman Cinema open that year.

It is hoped that the Everyman, combined with LMA's campus and council plans to enhance the Cavern Quarter around nearby Mathew Street, will make the Metquarter an arts and performance hub and draw visitors to the area.

A planning statement included with the application says Metquarter is facing serious difficulty in renting the space on upper floors to retail tenants.

The statement says: "Metquarter is facing serious challenges in terms of securing, on a permanent basis, appropriate A1 and A3 occupiers within the upper parts of Metquarter.

"Whilst anchor tenants are being secured for other parts of Metquarter there is every prospect that the space proposed to be occupied by LMA will be subject to significant voids for the foreseeable future."

LMA's new London campus would be located in Here East, a development in Stratford's Olympic Park.