By Kenn Taylor
While there has been much protest at the threatened closure of the Quiggins Centre due to the re-development of the Paradise Street area by the Grosvenor-Henderson scheme, the story of the loss of Liverpool's other alternative shopping arcade, The Palace on Slater Street, has gone largely unnoticed by the general public.
Long a haven for many of the city’s independent retailers and makers, it sold every thing from skater clothes and bongs to old records and also presented tarot readings. A lot of the traders had been on the site for up to 12 years.
The site also served as a place for meeting and advertising gigs and events. But in May 2004 the property development company Urban Splash, who owned the site, and was praised by many for its other regeneration projects in the city, called an emergency meeting of the Palace's tenants. They announced that the site was to be closed and re-developed. The new shops would be larger in size and rents would be raised to a level that would be beyond the reach of most of the occupants of the site. It was effectively an eviction notice to make way for chain-shops with unlimited cash to rent in a prime area.
The tenants were not surprisingly angered at this news having spent so much time and effort setting up independent businesses, and helping to regenerate an area, which was at the time they moved in generally run down. They were now having their livelihoods threatened. One tenant said, "It's a disgrace. They're creating a bland city, not a capital of culture."
There was light at the end of the tunnel, however. In September a group of Palace occupants approached Ted Spencer, owner of the Gostins furniture factory and shop on Hanover Street, who had excess space at his large site, about setting up a new arcade. In just three months a new location was created in a former storage area with 20 businesses from The Palace moving there. One trader hailed him as "...a real hero".
While there is hope for the future, it will take time for the new venture to get off the ground. Most occupants agreed that trade was definitely down, particularly with the difficulty that people had in getting round the Paradise Street area with the current demolition and construction taking place.
One stated, "It's like having to start all over again." The hope is that once the redevelopment is finished they will once again be in a prime area and "the vibe" of the old Palace will return.
Liverpool's independent shops are fighting back and need your support. Thanks to the Gostins Building traders for their contributions to this article.Printer friendly page