Plans to transform historic Leeds cinema into new food hub

The former Scala Theatre on Lands Lane in Leeds city centre. Picture: James Hardisty.
The former Scala Theatre on Lands Lane in Leeds city centre. Picture: James Hardisty.
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IT’S amazing how many hidden gems there are in Leeds.

Many people haven’t yet discovered the wonders of the 248-year-old Leeds Library, for example.

The Scala Theatre, pictured in May 1957, opened in 1922.

The Scala Theatre, pictured in May 1957, opened in 1922.

And now there’s another hidden part of the city’s history that could soon be brought to people’s attention.

Plans are in the pipeline for the former Scala Theatre to be transformed into a brand new food hub.

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In case the Scala Theatre isn’t ringing any bells, you may be more aware of it as the huge building opposite HMV on Lands Lane in Leeds city centre.

It has recently been used as retail space, with shops such as Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis taking up some of the ground floor units.

The site at 14 to 22 Lands Lane is understood be vacant at the moment, and the new plans could see it turned it into a dedicated food destination spanning all four floors.

A document seen by City Buzz states: “The current building has been vacant for seven months and has attracted little retail interest, however enquiries for [food and drink] have been many, based on the city’s growth as a leisure destination supported by recent developments such as the arena and the enhanced eating and drinking offering within the city centre throughout the week but particularly on a weekend.

“A change of use would see the ability to continue the life span of the building, given there is now a draw towards the Trinity, arena and Victoria Gate areas for retail.

“It is also considered that as the quarter extends into new areas such as Victoria Gate, that a proposal such as this keeps street frontage active and adds to the wider offering for the city centre.”

It adds that the plans could help boost the city centre’s night time economy as well.

It is a far cry from what the building was originally used for, however. When the Scala Theatre opened back in 1922, it was decorated in a Beaux-Arts style.

Owner Sol Levy also had Scala theatres in Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as other cinemas in London.

According to previous reports in the Yorkshire Evening Post, there was also a casino on the top floor.

The story suggests the casino was known as The Londsdale Club, and gambling on chemin de fer and baccarat tables – which would have been illegal in those days – was carried out behind closed doors.

It added that a full English breakfast was served ‘on the house’ to punters who were still gambling at daybreak.

In 1930, an organ was installed, which was later removed in 1954, and the building was converted into a furniture store before the foyer was turned into a Costa in 2009.

Sadly, many of the original features have been removed over the past 60 years to make way for retail space, and it is believed the only remaining original feature is the marble staircase towards the back of the building.

Although it is a step away from the building’s original purpose, it is always great to see interesting ideas being put forward for a site that is under-used at present.

We hope the last part of the building’s original features – the marble staircase – is put to good use and can’t wait to see what’s in store for this corner of the city centre.

Scalextric electric car racing set. PIC: PA

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