A bid to breathe new life into the Leeds Dock area was today welcomed by a respected heritage watchdog.
Leeds Civic Trust director Dr Kevin Grady said the plans put forward by site owner Allied London could provide an ideal antidote to the problems that have blighted the one-time Clarence Dock since its opening.
As reported in yesterday’s YEP, Allied London is creating new public gardens along the main approach to the dock waterfront.
An entertainment programme designed to pull in the visitors that the site has previously struggled to attract includes a street food and vintage festival on July 19 and 20.
And a proposed transformation of the closed Alea casino building into offices for technology, media and telecoms firms should bring hundreds of workers to the area day in, day out.
Construction will be masked by more than 100 metres of hoarding decorated with eye-catching designs by some of the UK’s leading street artists.
Dr Grady said: “If you want to attract people, there has to be day-to-day activity. That’s what Allied London is proposing.
“Another of the drawbacks of Clarence Dock was that it was a hard-surfaced, concrete environment.
“Allied London is ‘greening’ the area and giving it a more neighbourly, community feel.”
Dr Grady also said that the once-isolated site would benefit from a number of new developments on its doorstep.
Leeds City College’s £23m Printworks Campus opened on Hunslet Road in September last year.
Work is also under way on a new £16m Leeds College of Building base on Hunslet Lane and Black Bull Street.
And, in 2016, the country’s biggest free school, the Ruth Gorse Academy, is due to move into a £23m home, also on Black Bull Street.
“Clarence Dock was out on a limb, it was invisible from the city centre’s shopping area,” said Dr Grady.
“It also had derelict or empty sites around it, but now that’s not the case.”
The dock originally opened in the 1830s for the transportation of goods and commodities to and from Leeds city centre, using the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Aire and Calder Navigation.
It suffered steady decline through the 20th century before the first signs of recovery arrived with the opening of the neighbouring Royal Armouries museum in 1996.
Clarence Dock’s mix of leisure and retail attractions opened in a blaze of publicity in 2008 but around half of its 35 shop units ended up lying empty for years.
Allied London, the firm behind Manchester’s successful Spinningfields development, bought the site in early 2012.