The Three Graces, the Edwardian buildings that stand together on the Mersey and make Liverpool's waterfront one of the most distinctive in the world – will be supplemented by a fourth, under plans revealed yesterday.
A parcel of land alongside the Liver, Port of Liverpool and Cunard buildings has been acquired by the Northwest Development Agency, clearing the way for the construction of the Fourth Grace, which might be used as a museum celebrating urban life and popular culture.
The architectural consultancy Ove Arup has produced a feasibility study for a £100m public attraction on the site, which will form part of Liverpool's bid to be European City of Culture in 2008.
A raft of proposals have been forwarded for the site over the years, in the hope that it might be released by the car dealership whose occupation of it has always been considered a waste of its potential. A forum combining leaders from the city's public and private sectors first met to explore the possibility of a Fourth Grace more than 12 months ago.
The car dealership has decided to release its part of the six-acre site, the rest of which is already occupied by National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside.
The architectural challenge would be immense. The three buildings already in place on the waterfront, on the old George's Dock, represented the height of Edwardian imperial optimism when they were built. The 10-storey Liver Building is the finest and most famous of the buildings, capped with the legendary, faintly Byzantine liver birds, which have become the city's symbol.
The site is also to be developed through the extension of the Leeds Liverpool canal, from the Stanley Dock to the north, where it now terminates, past the Graces to the Albert Dock. A massive development of the King's Dock, which would accommodate a £150m home for Everton Football Club under plans currently being scrutinised, is also to take place.
Mike Shields, chief executive of the agency, said a Fourth Grace in Liverpool had the potential to be a "spectacular, private-sector-led waterfront development of international significance".
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