The Baltic Triangle is a part of Liverpool that’s going through a renaissance. With direct links to our city’s docklands and rich maritime heritage, the once drab and crumbling warehouses of the area are getting somewhat of a facelift. As well as undergoing aesthetic changes over the past four to five years, the business interests of the area have been placed into the hands of local steer group; companies that work together collectively to propel the Baltic Triangle into the future.
Aside from the avant-garde cafes, artist’s studios and venues such as the Camp and Furnace, there’s also one establishment that’s dedicated to stimulating business in the area while keeping in touch with its history.
The Baltic Creative is an innovative hive of new business, where artists, web developers and music management teams work under the same roof to bring that bohemian buzz back to Liverpool’s forgotten quarter. Established in 2009, the hub owns a total of 18 warehouses within the Baltic Triangle, with 45 spaces to house a potential 60 businesses.
Far from glossing over its history, the Baltic Creative has maintained its raw feel; with MDF sheds that act as offices and a warm and welcoming café reception, it gives off a feel of a corporate space that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The rusted hoists that act as decorative pieces let those visiting know that far from abandoning the past, the Baltic Creative is taking our industrious legacy into the future.
Mark Lawler joined Baltic Creative as Managing Director in February 2010. “When I joined we had 18 warehouses with leaky roofs and four tenants. They appointed me because of my background; I was able to procure, manage and develop a space and being a small business owner, I was able to empathise and understand what small businesses have to deal with.” Mark graduated from LJMU as a building surveyor in 1996 and has since worked in development and retail, before taking over the reins at the business hub.
After a full refurbishment which was completed in November 2012, Mark has kept his promise; hosting over 50 business development events in the past nine months to support his fledgling startups. “Our duty is not only making sure the toilets are clean and lights are getting fixed, but also providing business development support through our meeting space.
“We’re here not only to provide space, but also to help businesses and nurture them so they grow. We want them to get established, create jobs and ultimately move out of our space into somewhere bigger,” he says.
The welcoming and playful design of the Baltic Creative is not something that’s happened by accident, as Mark explains. It was meticulously thought out, helping to stimulate collaboration between creative businesses: “Through very careful design with architects, we’ve created an environment where businesses can work closely together. We’ve got a great hub and meeting space and also the corridor garden, with little patches of land outside each of the sheds for tenants to work on.”
And with shared recycling areas, kitchen facilities and bike-stores, business start-ups are bound to make that knowledge exchange that helps push creativity forward. “There’s a lot to be gained from an environment where you’re not in a silo but work more collaboratively,” says Mark
“Some of the businesses I work with now wouldn’t have spoken to each other five or six years ago, but now they’re working next door to each other. I don’t see how that can be a bad thing, people speaking to each other and communicating.”
It’s not only the physical space that’s designed to lure entrepreneurs into conversation with each other; Mark and his board have designed contracts that allow business to sub-let up to 50% of their commercial space, helping businesses they’re working with to move in and share costs.
Mark and his board don’t just want to create another business space. They want to create a digitally creative community that will carry this city forward. “We see ourselves as a potential visitor area that people think is a quirky place to come and see.
“There are massive opportunities to run outside events like markets and music events, due to the width of the roads We want artists to begin to animate the place, which some have already done, to create a sense of place.”
Mark is adamant his immediate priorities lay in being the best possible Landlord. However, he has recently had permission to explore a Baltic Creative Phase Two, with the possibility to expand the hub further into the Baltic Triangle and beyond. “The cogs are in place for the sector to continue to grow in Liverpool,” he says. “We just hope that it does continue to grow and we continue to attract good businesses.”
By Storm Rannard