I found myself invited to a lunch meeting two weeks ago in Shanghai’s spiffy new World Financial Trade Center. I was the fly on the wall as lawyers from DLA Piper met with a trade delegation from Liverpool, England that was on a whistle-stop tour of the city. The Liverpudlians were getting the lay of the land (and hammering out their marketing pitch) before opening up their booth at the 2010 Shanghai Expo and trying to woo Chinese investors.
The Expo is a big deal for Liverpool, which I quickly learned is a sister city of Shanghai. It was the only UK city besides London to win a bid for a place at the Expo – “a massive coup for Merseyside and the North West,” says the Liverpool Shanghai Partnership.
Going after Chinese tourists was one Expo strategy raised at the meeting. One rep told me afterward that he thought the city would have a shot at bringing in Chinese football fans on account of Liverpool’s two Premier League clubs. I told him I wasn’t too sure how much Beatles tourism they should count on. Not much of a knowledge base to build on besides about 20-odd years of Enya-fied “Hey Jude” in KTV parlors, that is.
How exactly Liverpool will attract Chinese investment during the Expo still seemed up in the air at the meeting’s conclusion. “It depends on how the city leverages its distinctiveness.” In other words, who knows?
Yet one interesting nugget came up on the real estate front. I learned that Manchester-based property and transport conglomerate Peel is planning to build a 60-story, US$527 million skyscraper in Liverpool to reshape the city’s waterfront. It would be the UK’s tallest building outside of London (and still taller than the Gherkin). The name? Shanghai Tower – inspired by a two-week trip to this fair city by Peel chairman John Whittaker.
Inspiration is always nice to see between sisters, but, as the rep told me after the meeting, it would be nicer if Liverpool’s Shanghai Tower could attract a few Shanghai investors to help foot construction costs before the Expo hits town. Either that, or hold out for a “Liverpool Spire” to be built in Pudong some time in the coming years, to return the favor.