FOR more than 50 years, it’s been one of the city’s biggest and busiest shopping centres.
Now change is on the horizon as the Merrion Centre welcomes a brand new hotel and restaurant.
City Buzz can exclusively reveal the vision for the site, which is due to open in spring 2017.
The eye-catching CGI image shows the plans for the development at the former Merrion Hotel site.
It will include a 134-room Ibis Styles hotel, along with a New York Italian restaurant by Leeds-born chef Marco Pierre White.
Edward Ziff, chief executive and chairman of Town Centre Securities (TCS), which owns the shopping centre, said: “Work is progressing on schedule and we are confident that Marco Pierre White’s first restaurant in Leeds and the Ibis Styles hotel will not only be welcome but extremely popular additions to the city.”
The Ibis Styles hotel will feature a Yorkshire-themed reception area.
Celebrity chef Marco will set up his New York Italian restaurant within the hotel’s ground floor – taking up a 4,000sq ft space and a modern two-storey extension onto Wade Lane.
The neighbouring units that are currently occupied will also get a facelift with new cladding and glazing.
Once finished, the landmark scheme will form a key part of the city centre’s up-and-coming Arena Quarter.
Mr Ziff added: “The Merrion Centre is in the heart of Leeds’s Arena Quarter which is rapidly becoming a popular destination with restaurants, bars and the First Direct Arena and we are very excited to add a top restaurant and hotel to the offering.”
Speaking previously about the addition of Marco Pierre White’s restaurant, Mr Ziff said: “It was actually my daughter’s idea. She spends a lot of time in London and looked at one of his restaurants.
“Plus Marco Pierre White is an ex-Leeds boy and was keen to get one of his restaurants in the city. It’s fantastic.”
Hell’s Kitchen star Marco previously planned to open a restaurant at the Queen’s Hotel back in 1999 but the project was put on hold indefinitely, with a spokesman at the time citing ‘complications’.
However the success of the Arena Quarter has now proved enough pulling power to bring the celebrity chef back home to Leeds.
And it’s not just Marco who is interested in the site.
In the past few years, the shopping centre has undergone a £50m investment and attracted new tenants such as Pure Gym, Smoke restaurant, Bulgogi Grill and My Thai.
Since the opening of the Leeds Arena, the centre has also seen a 20 per cent rise in visitor numbers.
It’s doing so well, in fact, that City Buzz understands there are just three newly-created units that are currently still vacant – with two rumoured to be under offer.
We’re sure they won’t remain empty for long as the Arena Quarter continues to grow and improve.
With plans for top quality flats nearby as well as a five-star Hilton hotel in the pipeline, we haven’t quite seen the area peak just yet.
It’s great to see what was once a forgotten part of the city centre come back to life and we can’t wait to see what’s in store when the final units get snapped up.