Even if you’ve never been to Liverpool before, you should already know two of its street names.
“They are Anfield Road and Penny Lane,” claims Peter Schreiwersmann, sitting inside Hotel Anfield. The adopted scouser is its co-owner and invested in the Victorian villa at 23 Anfield Road in February 2020 - right at the beginning of the pandemic.
If the timing of the initial purchase was slightly unlucky, it’s since flowered into a solid bet. Liverpool football club, based a few metres up the road, are arguably at the peak of their powers and still active in all competitions this season. This means over 54,000 people descend on the area around three times a month - seemingly to the benefit of the hotel and bar.
READ MORE:Anfield's battle to go from shuttered shops to destination
From 2024 that figure is set to rise when the club’s ongoing stadium expansion is complete. But the picture isn’t entirely rosy, regardless of the wild celebrations that often take place in the hotel’s garden marquee on match days.
Peter told the ECHO: “You come to both Anfield Road and Penny Lane and both are a little bit underwhelming. They are not quite the destinations that the name implies. This is something we want to change.”
Walk around the perimeter of the stadium and you will notice a contrast between the derelict land and tinned up houses on one side, a row of well kept hotels and villas on the other. This may suggest large scale disparities have formed in such a small area, but Peter sees it differently. He suggests the cosmetics don’t bear the truth.
Both sides, he says, dovetail into a wider and much needed regeneration effort. Therefore he recently made the decision to form the Anfield Road traders association in a bid to lead on regeneration projects alongside those being carried out by the council - of which are limited to seven key sites, predominantly around Walton Breck and Oakfield Road.
Despite Anfield Road’s more quaint appearance in relation to the rest of Anfield, Peter points to widespread problems with litter and a general lack of care by those who pass through it. He also notes how there are few provisions in the area beyond pubs and takeaways, while dilapidated and boarded up houses interject between otherwise neat terraces around Anfield Road and Gurnall Street.
Peter told the ECHO: “When there is a building with one broken window and you leave it, it's very quickly going to be two broken windows. Next thing you know there’s three broken windows impacting a street.”
Peter says that the traders association will take small steps to start with, one of which is funding a new mural on the bottom of Anfield Road near the King Harry pub.
Peter added: “Making a visual impact suggests to people there are organisations and people that care. And if you feel that the area you live in or work in is being cared for, you look after it a little bit differently yourself.
“That is civic pride. You don't just demand it or switch it on, it's something that gets instilled and gets built over time. And it requires different organisations coming together.”
Anfield has been the centre of a large-scale regeneration project that has been ongoing for almost two decades. So far it’s delivered in the region of 1,400 new and refurbished homes which sought to replace an ageing housing stock. But progress with the wide reaching scheme has been patchy.
£6m of council funding is going towards revitalising aspects on Walton Breck Road and Oakfield Road, on the south side of the stadium. According to the council, this will serve as the final 40% of a project a decade in the making - in some cases repurposing the derelict land in clear view of thousands of tourists. There are similar hopes of reopening a row of tinned up houses on Oakfield Road - a project being led on by Homebaked CLT.
The wider regeneration effort has also seen Stanley Park undergo a £14m revitalisation and currently houses one example of where Anfield Road has previously overcome a trend of decline. For decades, the grade II listed Isla Gladstone conservatory was a prime canvas for graffiti tags as it rusted away unused and unloved in Stanley Park.
When the overhaul of the park began in 2007, work started on refurbishment of the conservatory - which is now run by Gemma McGowan and operates as a cafe and venue. Today the conservatory is emblematic of the turn-around parts of Anfield have achieved, but also sticks out as an example in the landscape that more needs to be done.
Ms McGowan previously ran The Sandon on Oakfield road, the birthplace of LFC and one of the most famous pubs in the Anfield area. However, she left the pub to take the reins at the revived Isla Gladstone.
Ms McGowan told the ECHO: “When I first became involved in Anfield 26 years ago, it was a thriving area. When the club looked at expansion and the Housing Market Renewal Initiative was getting ready to take place, a lot of the houses became boarded up ready to start the demolition.”
The HMRI was stopped in 2010 when the incoming coalition government cut funding. It left a number of streets hollowed out and in wait for redevelopment. Of those bought up by LFC, one phase of stadium expansion was still half a decade away and only completed in 2016.
Ms McGowan added: “It massively changed the demographic of the area. Entire roads got boarded up, it wasn't a pleasant place. When Liverpool weren't playing too well around that point in time, the crowds weren't always as big as they are now.
“It was so negative for such a long time around here - not a lot of people wanted to invest time and energy because it seemed to go nowhere. There'd been so many problems in Anfield over the regeneration that the communities became fractured, so there was a lot of anger. If one person wanted to do one thing, another community group didn't like it.”
Ms McGowan says there is now a rising level of community ownership, which is looking to be harnessed by the new trader associon, adding: “We want things to happen. It's great to see businesses coming into the area that are invested, committed and wanting to see a change.”
One of these businesses Ms McGowan refers to is Hotel Tia, the neighbour of Hotel Anfield. Both of which, alongside the Isla Gladstone, are at the heart of the new traders association.
Ragnhild Lund Ansnes is a journalist, author and the hotel’s co-owner. She first started visiting Liverpool from Norway in 2007 and was able to open the hotel at the tail end of 2018.
Ragnhild told the ECHO: “When I first came up here in 2007, there was nothing here. Everything was closed. There was only the club shop - that was it. Nowhere to have a coffee. So many tourists, the first thing they do when they come to the city is drop off their luggage and go straight up to Anfield.”
Ragnhild agrees with Ms McGowan that the area was more like a ghost town away from game days. It’s one that had the potential to leave a slightly unsavoury picture of Liverpool upon tourists.
Ms McGowan added: “You'd feel embarrassed. You'd see people getting dropped off on a match day early - hours before kick off. And they'd be just wandering around. You felt like you needed to bring them in and look after them.
“Now when you get dropped off at the bottom of Anfield Road, the first thing that you see are wheelie bins and signs saying 'road closed - do not come up here'. There's a barrier there straight away.”
However one of the core aims of the traders association is to bring a new depth to the area - not solely in terms of revenue. Peter points out that there is no fully fledged restaurant around Anfield Road, Walton Breck Road or Oakfield Road. Instead it remains in the grip of matchday traders who often remain shuttered until game days.
Rather than experience the area’s light’s switched on every fortnight, a diversity business could serve as a dimmer switch that gradually places a new, welcoming spotlight on Anfield.
While both sides of the stadium may be at different stages of respective regeneration projects, both appear to want to enhance Anfield’s destination credentials.
The shopfronts and takeaways facing the Kop end are part of the council’s vision to provide much needed commercial spaces to serve local residents. There will also be new public realm enhancements along Walton Breck and Oakfield Road.
But as it stands, key plots like Anfield Square remain derelict. The shops on Walton Breck Road tend to be in prolonged hibernation.
One of the more active scenes is in Homebaked bakery on Oakfield Road, which took over and converted former Mitchells bakery in 2012. Today it stands as one of the most successful social enterprises in the city region.
It adjoins a row of tinned up houses which its sister organisation, Homebaked Community Land Trust (CLT), is planning to develop into a range of homes and space for start up businesses and initiatives.
The plans have been coming down the pipeline since 2018 but the CLT are hoping to make progress as soon as possible.
Like Gemma McGowan, Anfield resident and the CLT’s secretary, Tom Murphy, spoke to the ECHO about how the collapse of the MRHI and indecisiveness over stadium expansion led to much of Anfield being “emptied out”. But speaking to the ECHO a few weeks ago, Mr Murphy explained how the area is now beginning to turn a corner and find a pathway to achieving long overdue regeneration.
He said: "Where we are today, Anfield is now seen as an area to invest in which is great on one hand. But on the other, we have to make sure it's the right investment. Often a lot of the investment that is coming in is from outside developers which aren't community led and the community don't benefit.
“So when profit is made in the area, it's siphoned off to line other people's pockets. That doesn't benefit people within the area."
There is a mutual feeling of Anfield being exploited in certain capacities over on Anfield Road. Peter Schreiwersmann explains how the hotel had recently had to deal with complications with an unregulated AirBnB which had taken over one of the houses in the area.
This forms a picture of people looking to cash in on the footfall the area experiences on occasion throughout the month. But Peter says the area is not the cash cow it might appear and that.
He said: “Business normally thrives when you have a consistent flow of people. For that consistency you need to have certain offerings in the area.
“Just because the club is there and every fortnight there is a couple of hours where all hell breaks loose around here, that does not mean it's in the best shape.”
In turn, some of this opportunism may be what currently holds certain aspects of Anfield back. The opportunity to make money on match day traffic is clearly a tantalising one - one that is seemingly best served through fast food and drinks offer.
A fully fledged restaurant or a run of barista bars could prove to be a risky investment given the core demographic of people passing through the area on a month-to-month basis. But, ironically, it’s Everton that could cast light on how an area develops once football isn’t deemed the main attraction within an area.
Just across Stanley Park, Everton FC will leave Goodison in two year’s time and a large scale regeneration project will begin. If successful it could radically reshape the draw of County Road and diversify the business ventures in the County side of L4.
In Anfield, the transition to a standalone destination may have to be more gradual. Peter added: "Business likes stability and certainty. Knowing that [LFC] is expanding its stadium by 6,000 seats, for us that's a big tick in the box. I don't have to worry about them going away.
“But by no means saying it's only Anfield Road that needs to improve. I want this to feed into the bigger regeneration of the area. If what we do makes a positive contribution, then that can only be a good thing."