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Liverpool announces major Wizard of Oz makeover for its gay district

Liverpool announces major Wizard of Oz makeover for its gay district

An artist's impression of the revamped Eberle Street

Stanley Street Quarter, the ‘official LGBT Quarter’ for the northern England city of Liverpool has announced that Eberle Street is to be given a major makeover inspired by the classic film, The Wizard of Oz.

Whereas the gay scenes in other cities are facing tough times, the city of Liverpool is spending £1.4million ($2.1m/€1.9m) on a program to improve the walking connections between the Commercial District and the retail core of the city center.

Eberle Street is home to some of the city’s most well-known LGBTI venues, such as G Bar and Garlands, and the makeover is part of this wider regeneration project.

The Stanley Street Quarter is a community interest company that overseas the area. The company’s stated aim is to ‘develop the area into a place to live, work and enjoy where the LGBT community is celebrated and feels safe.’

Stanley Street Quarter received official endorsement by Liverpool council in 2013, allowing it to bid for city funds.

The regeneration project is receiving £900,000 of its funding from the Liverpool BID Company, with the remainder coming from the council.

An artist's impression of the revamped Eberle Street
An artist’s impression of the revamped Eberle Street

The Eberle Street makeover will include unique new paving and lighting that will ‘pay homage to the mythical Emerald City, Yellow Brick Road and Judy Garland,’ according to a press statement.

And yes, some of that paving tiles will be yellow and will feature Wizard of Oz imagery, such as ruby slippers.

Lighting, including bespoke LED fixtures, will be suspended 20 feet above the street. The revamp work is due to begin in January and is expected to be completed in April.

In a statement, Councilor Malcolm Kennedy, cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said: ‘These works will give a unique look to Eberle Street in keeping with it being at the heart of the LGBT quarter.

‘This is part of the city center which is thriving and attracts many visitors and its transformation will make it an even greater attraction. Local businesses have been closely involved in the design process and are helping make this a very exciting scheme.’

Jim Gill, Chairman of the Commercial District BID, which represents more than 850 businesses, said: ‘Eberle Street is a hub of Liverpool’s night time economy and LGBT community so its redesign required an imaginative approach that had the verve and style to celebrate its unique position and elevate it to a prominence it richly deserves.’

Andrew Pankhurst, manager of G-Bar, said that it and other LGBTI venues had been consulted and allowed an input into the proposed changes: ‘Eberle’s regeneration is one of the most exciting and important changes in the area that we have seen since we opened on this street.

‘Both ourselves, Garlands and other businesses have been involved extensively in the decision making process and were asked throughout by the BID, [design companies] Amey and BCA what we would like to see incorporated into the new designs.’

Andi Herring, Chair of Stanley Street Quarter CIC, said: ‘The transformation that is going to take place on Eberle Street is a great example of how being part of a wider organization looking beyond the front doors of businesses benefits the whole community – whether that’s the businesses, residents or the LGBT Community everyone is set to benefit from these works.’

Herring told Gay Star Business that forming a Community Interest Company had helped to, ‘champion the area as a place to invest and one to visit.

‘With this recent investment from the council and Liverpool BID Company, which was done with the area’s identity in mind from the start, we are showing there is real partnership support for creating a diverse area and identity for an LGBT Quarter that is here to stay.’

Cherry Lane, chief drag performer and entertainment manager for Garlands, told Gay Star Business, ‘At long last our fabulous, magical street gets a new look. And what better way than to lay a yellow brick road which will lead you all the way to the amazing Garlands.

‘This street has made so many wonderful clubbing memories for hundreds of thousands of people over the years and now looks set to make even more … in style.’

A 2012 report estimated that around 94,000 LGB people live in Merseyside – a figure comparable to the LGB population of San Francisco.

Eberle Street lies 300 meters from the ‘Beatles mecca’ of Mathew Street and 150 meters from Liverpool Town Hall, which is also becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction.

In a further sign of the city’s booming reputation, today it was announced that Liverpool Waterfront had won a national competition to find the ‘greatest places’ in the England.

The competition was run by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), and its president, Janet Askew, said, ‘I think Liverpool is a great place and I think there is loads coming on in Liverpool now.’