Liverpool landmark the Everton Library, a Grade II (GII) listed building that has been the focus of calls to restore it to its former glory continues to lie leaking, vandalised and derelict, when £5m could renovate the building, reports The Liverpool Echo.
The Liverpool Echo writes:
A Liverpool landmark that has been the focus of calls to restore it to its former glory continues to lie leaking, vandalised and derelict. Campaigners say Everton Library, which stands just off St Domingo Road, played a vital role the development of public libraries in the city and must be saved. But the Grade II listed building is now decrepit and exposed to the elements, with extensive lead theft in recent decades meaning it is vulnerable to further damage.
It has now been placed on the Victorian Society’s list of the 10 most endangered buildings in Britain in 2019. A description of the building on the society’s website says that it is vital that ‘a building of such enormous quality in an area that has suffered so much is saved’. Christopher Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said: ‘Liverpool is a city full of great district libraries, and Everton Library is probably the best.’ Mr Costelloe said: ‘This fantastic building is a jewel, and the city can’t afford to lose it. The Florrie shows how buildings like this can be given new life.’
Liverpool Council said today that they have entered into an exclusivity agreement with a potential partner to renovate the building – but that it will take six months of viability studies before that company can decide if it can go ahead with a revamp. The name of the company is being kept secret as part of the agreement.
Everton Library was one of the first public libraries in Liverpool, opening in 1896. Designed by architect Thomas Shelmerdine, it remained as a library until 1999. However in the two decades since its closure no viable plan to refurbish and reopen the building has been successful. Plans were put forward in both 2014 and 2016 to turn the building into a cultural and community hub, but on both occasions financial and business restraints meant they did not go any further. Photos inside the building show its period features in a worsening state.
Last year an approach from property group Signature Living to transform the building into a youth centre was snubbed by the council , with the authority instead asking for other ‘expressions of interest’ to save the building. Company chairman Lawrence Kenwright had said he grew up ‘in the shadow’ of the library and hoped he could carry out a ‘sensitive restoration’ of the building. He said: ‘It saddens me that it has been allowed to decay over the years and that’s why we’re working on a plan for a sensitive restoration of the building. We want to restore the library but also create a tea room and events space for the people of Liverpool to enjoy.’
The council owns the freehold for the site in Beacon Lane and St Domingo Road but is planning to dispose of it on the basis of a 125-year lease, if the right bidder comes forward and gets full planning consent. Liverpool Council have previously said renovating Everton Library would be a ‘very difficult’ task, with the authority estimating it would cost in the region of £5m. And given the increasing financial pressures on the local authority it’s unlikely it would have any significant sums it could offer towards redevelopment.
A council spokesman told the Echo earlier this year: ‘We are eager for Everton Library to be restored in some way, but it is a very difficult scheme for a developer to take on, as they would need to find up to £5m to bring it back into use. The council, which has no monies to contribute towards a redevelopment, has looked at several proposed schemes but all had been dependent on external grants and, as a result, could not be supported.’