City Buzz: What’s in store for Leeds in 2016?

Victoria Gate, Leeds. Pic: Bruce Rollinson.
Victoria Gate, Leeds. Pic: Bruce Rollinson.
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THERE’S no denying the city centre has changed dramatically in the past 12 months.

This time last year, Greek Street was a shadow of its former self and Call Lane still seemed to be the nucleus of the city’s nightlife.

Now the focus has shifted significantly.

The Northern Quarter has come into its own and welcomed a whole host of new names from Bar Soba and The Rum Shack to Slate and Mean Eyed Cat.

Greek Street has also been revived, with new bars, restaurants and even a luxury hotel flocking to the now sought-after street.

Not to mention the city centre now has its own Michelin-starred restaurant thanks to the success of the Man Behind the Curtain, which brought home the city’s first in several years.

So what’s in store for Leeds in 2016?

One of the biggest changes coming up will be the opening of the £165m Victoria Gate scheme.

The development between Kirkgate Market, Eastgate and Vicar Lane will be home to one of the largest John Lewis stores outside of London as well as a casino, multi-storey car park for up to 1,000 cars and an arcade with 30 stores, restaurants, cafés and leisure space.

It will undoubtedly have a huge impact on shoppers, businesses and retailers, and interest in the area has already grown – multi-million pound venue Headrow House recently opened nearby and Samsung and Sports Direct have snapped up prime sites on The Headrow and Briggate.

Victoria Gate is expected to open at the end of the year, so the knock-on effect may not be felt fully until 2017.

One site that will inevitably be affected is Leeds’s Kirkgate Market.

It’s been a rough ride for the market, with some unpopular choices and decisions being made along the way.

But after a £13.7m refurbishment, positive changes could be around the corner.

The substantial investment combined with a potential increase in footfall from Victoria Gate should hopefully give the city’s much-loved market the boost it deserves – and the Corn Exchange too, for that matter.

Another important milestone will be the launch of the train station’s South Exit, which will be unveiled to the public very soon.

The state-of-the-art, £17million South Exit will open right on Granary Wharf’s doorstep, bringing thousands of visitors to this part of town every day.

Thanks to the scheme, the area looks set to flourish – and Ossett Brewery is one of the businesses keen to make the most of it.

The company already owns The Hop and also opened two new venues – Archie’s Bar and Kitchen and the Candle Bar – last year, taking the brewery’s investment in Granary Wharf to over £1million.

That’s a big statement of how much faith the owners have in the area.

Combined with the water taxis that now run regularly between Granary Wharf and Leeds Dock, we’re sure this area will go from strength to strength.

As good as 2015 was, there’s still plenty to be excited about in 2016, so keep watching this space.

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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