A NEW hotel, offices or apartments could be built in Leeds city centre as part of plans to create a link between the Victoria Gate shopping development and Kirkgate Market.
Leeds City Council intends to refurbish the street that sits between the two sites in a move that will see another part of ‘old Leeds’ erased.
It wants to improve the 0.3-acre row of existing shops on George Street, part of which dates back to the 1930s, in partnership with a developer.
The move is aimed at encouraging Victoria Gate shoppers to visit Kirkgate Market, which is about to undergo a £12m revamp.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Martin Farrington, the council’s director of city development, said new levels will be created on top of the existing shops, for apartments, offices or a hotel.
He said: “If you look at the site, there will be a new John Lewis on one side and the newly-developed Kirkgate Market on the other.
“When you look at the current presentation of George Street, it becomes quite clear that we need to bring forward a new development in that area.”
Current tenants include a fish and chip shop, a hairdresser, a newsagent, and a Chinese grocery store.
Occupiers would have the chance to agree new leases or be bought out.
“In the end I think it will end up being a mixture of old and new tenants,” Mr Farrington said.
He added: “It creates an opportunity for independents to trade in the heart of Leeds city centre and that is where the strength of Leeds shopping will come after all the other developments.”
The redeveloped shops will be dual facing to enable access from both George Street and from within the market.
The development, which could be complete by 2015/16, will also improve existing entrances into the market from George Street to make them more prominent.
The council is looking for a development partner to refurbish the existing shops and provide new ground floor and first floor commercial space, which would be retained and managed by the council.
The appointed development partner will build, retain and manage additional development at the second, third and fourth floors levels, which could comprise apartments, offices or a hotel. This new space would remain under the control of the development partner.
Mr Farrington said: “This is a unique opportunity that hasn’t come to market before in this way.”
Developers have until September 24 to register their interest before entering into a competition for the project.
WHAT SHOPPERS AND TRADERS THINK
The hustle and bustle of the thriving row of shops which have nestled beside Leeds Kirkgate Market for decades are a true representation of how Leeds used to look.
The popular Fisherman’s Wife chippy often has a queue of hungry people snaking from its door, many of who have already paid a visit to one or more of its neighbours.
But it is difficult to imagine how the row of traditional units would comfortably sit alongside the sleek sophistication of the new Victoria Gate development.
Owners of the businesses on George Street, many of who have been there for decades, have told the YEP they hope the impending revamp of the street will be a boost for business in the area after what has been a tricky time.
But several said times would potentially get tougher while work was carried out to bring the 1930s street into the 21st century.
Chris Dobrowolski, who has worked at Supercut in George Street for more than 25 years, claims to have already lost trade due to the recent reduction in parking close to the market.
He said: “Without doubt this street needs a revamp, there’s not much left of it here now since the pub was knocked down.
“We’ve not seen anything as yet – to be quite honest it feels as if they’ve kept us in the dark about it.”
Supercut customer Dean Evans, 43, from Woodlesford, added: “I think it needs a revamp, like everywhere it’s a bit outdated and I think when the shopping centre will be completed it will be great for the market but that wont stop market traders going under before then.”
Traders on the street, which also includes a Chinese supermarket, sandwich shop and a nail salon, have all been assured that they will be offered tenancies in the renewed street, although it is still unclear how much the redevelopment will affect future rent rates.
Subash Bammi, owner of Design School Uniform, added: “I don’t think the street needs updating to that extent, all we need is parking.”
But some remain keen to retain as much of ‘old Leeds’ as possible.
Shopper Michael Walker, 65, from Stanley, said: “I think they need to keep some of old Leeds, there’s no point pulling it all down.
“They need to leave some old stuff – they should leave the market as it is.”
- See www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk for a video of traders’ and shoppers’ reactions to the plans.