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Welcome to the Hotel Scandal-navian

Larry Neild with the latest on the Chinatown building saga. This time: Nothing continues to happen

Published on January 27th 2010.


Welcome to the Hotel Scandal-navian

CHINATOWN businessman and restaurateur Jimmy Wong bought the derelict Scandinavian Hotel in Nelson Street around 20 years ago, with grand plans to transform it into a 1,000 seater Chinese restaurant.

The building could become, I though, an Oriental arts and culture centre, an international attraction at the heart of what is Europe’s oldest Chinese community. It could house some of the thousands of Chinese and Far East artefacts currently hidden from view as they remain stored in NML vaults

His dream was given the chop, in 2004, when the city council used CPO powers to take the landmark building from him after he had spent £200k of his own money improving the facade.

Politicians took the view that work needed to start on transforming the building so it could be ready for Liverpool’s year as 2008 European Capital of Culture.

A deal was signed with a local company, Downing Developments, which put forward its own multi-million pound redevelopment plans, originally for a hotel, and more apartments.

I remember going to the public inquiry during which officials expressed the view that Mr Wong was himself unable to transform the building, and, in any case, had had long enough to make things happen.

Such is the location of this grand building, built around 1840, that I had my own thoughts on its future, expressing these to local councillors, politicians and Chinatown notables. All agreed it was a grand plan, but progress was never made.

The building could become, I though, an Oriental arts and culture centre, an international attraction at the heart of what is Europe’s oldest Chinese community. It could house some of the thousands of Chinese and Far East artefacts currently hidden from view as they remain stored in NML vaults.

It could house an art gallery and a mock-up of a traditional Chinese street. There could be a theatre for performances of Peking opera and other events – private functions, marriages and other celebrations. Mr Wong could have his grand banqueting hall on the ground floor.

This though is Liverpool, the town dogged by powers-that-be who, far too often, like to think small.

Instead, 08 is now fading into memory and the Scandanavian Hotel is as empty and unused as it was a decade ago.

Now the agreement between the city council and Downing has been torn up. The city council aims to find a new developer for the site.

Some may have thought the site should be handed back to Jimmy Wong and Frenson's which owns the "modern" building at the rear of the original hotel. It was theirs in the first place, the council said they wanted it up and ready for culture year and that didn’t happen.

Instead a wrangle over the worth of the site continues and within a few months will end up at a hearing of the Lands Tribunal.

Since the CPO, the council has paid around £500,000, shared between the two, for a site that sits in the shadow of the Anglican Cathedral and next to the Shanghai-built arch.

That would buy Mr Wong and Frenson's Max Stone a modest semi in south Liverpool, providing they didn’t require double glazing.

The two say the Scandinavian Hotel is worth around £3.2m. It’s a key gateway site into the city and covers a large area.

In the early 1990s, small city centre sites were changing hands for much more than £3m and the tiny, derelict King Edward pub, near Costco, went for £6.4m jhree and a half years ago.

The tribunal will decide how much the council will have to pay.

I always felt a city boasting, at the time, so many quangos, could surely find an agency with the wherewithal to help Mr Wong get his scheme off the ground. Here was a Chinatown businessman, desperate to develop a building he owned in Chinatown and it was taken off him.

It would be such a tragedy if this impressive building ended up as yet more apartments rather than as a vibrant facility capable of attracting tourists and visitors to what remains of Chinatown. Or even worse, left to crumble and be lost forever.

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GJanuary 27th 2010.

ah to develop this building has been my dream for years! I live close by and look at it every day. If only I could have the capital to invest before someone else does! It would be amazing to have an open facility that could incorporate China town / duke street link to the docks /the cathedrals as the location is central to them all!

AnonymousJanuary 27th 2010.

What a great idea to use the building as a cultural centre. Let's face it the current Chinatown is a dump and not the kind of place a tourist would want to visit apart from snatching a quick foto of the arch. I agree we live in a city lacking imagination.

AnonymousJanuary 27th 2010.

Why bother finding a home for our hidden treasures from the orient when our cultural offer boasts a big wheel, or is it two big wheels. Enough to send you into a cultural spin.

MichaelJanuary 27th 2010.

I guess this is just another case of leave it to fall into dangerous disrepair so it has to be bulldozed and then erect some more tiny box apartments for all these young professionals who are going to flock to Liverpool after the Shanghai expo. It makes sense you know, Larry

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