Renewed plans to upgrade and protect one of Leeds city centre’s most important and historic cultural quarters have been revealed.
Leeds City Council is preparing a bid for £2m of Townscape Heritage funding from the Lottery to help revamp the Grand Quarter, which includes the Grand Theatre, Howard Assembly Rooms, St John’s Church, Merrion Street Gardens, Grand Arcade and other parts of Merrion Street and New Briggate. The council is also hoping to inject £500,000 into the scheme, and to leverage £2.5m of private match funding to take the total investment to £5million.
It is hoped the project will “arrest decline” in a much loved area of the city and improve its overall image.
An initial Stage 1 bid was rejected earlier in the year, despite positive feedback, partly because of funded upgrade schemes in Armley and Chapeltown which were being carried out at the same time.
But hopes are high that the bid will be approved at the second time of asking - and that it will ultimately play a part in Leeds’s ambition to be named European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the resubmission of the Heritage Lottery bid at its monthly meeting later this week.
Councillor Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “These proposals form a key part of our ambition for a vibrant, modern and accessible city centre that helps the area around the Grand to maximise its enormous potential.
“With assets like The Grand Theatre and Grand Arcade as well as a thriving night life scene, this is a part of the city which is already attracting a large number of people. We want to make sure that continues and that both existing and future businesses are able to be part of that success story.
“We have already taken steps which have made a big impact on the area, such as closing Little Merrion Street to traffic. Now, following a very positive consultation with the public it’s important that we keep up the pace of work to attract the funding we need to further enhance this fantastic part of the city.”
A report to be presented to the Executive Board on Wednesday says: “The Grand Quarter on New Briggate is an important and historic part of the city centre, home to the Grand Theatre and Opera House and the Howard Assembly Rooms.
“The Grand Quarter has however been steadily declining in recent years. It is also located between a number of high profile regeneration areas within the city centre, including Leeds Arena, Victoria Gate and redevelopment of the Bridge Street area.
“As such, it will act as a key connecting area of the city centre.”
The Townscape Heritage scheme will offer grants to a number of business owners along New Briggate and the Grand Arcade.
The report to the Executive Board explains that properties have been prioritised on the basis of “heritage need, condition and negative impact on the appearance and functionality of the Grand Quarter”. ‘High priority’ buildings are 23 to 51b New Briggate and the Grand Arcade. The Grand Theatre and other nearby buildings are identified as ‘medium priority’.