Bringing Kirkgate into the 21st century

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An ambitious and large-scale project to transform one of the oldest but most derelict parts of Leeds city centre into an arts quarter has been revealed.

City Buzz has had an insight into the vision by Kirkgate Land Limited. who over the last 20 years have been purchasing pockets of land with a view to bringing together one comprehensive project.

A planning application, submitted to Leeds City Council, covers the regeneration of numbers 83 to 89 and also number 91 Kirkgate.

The proposals, drawn up by think architecture+design, are to bring the properties back into full and viable use, re-open Pine Court for public access, create public open space, encourage use of the ginnel between Kirkgate and the back of the properties and have mixed use classes of residential, business and office.

The properties are in various states of dereliction and Simon Smithson, director at Leeds based think, said: “The buildings are presently in a poor state of repair and require extensive works to ensure their long term future.”

These will include re-roofing, renewal of floor-boards and joists to support structural capacity, replace existing shop fronts, pointing and rendering to external walls, prevention of damp, eradicate dry and wet rot and insect infestation, new staircases, reinstatement of chimney stacks and provision of lighting, heating and power.

In particular, number 84 will apply for a change of use to arts space. Number 85, formerly a barbers shop, will be a mix of residential and office. Numbers 86 and 87 will be arts space on the ground floor with apartments on the first and second floors. Numbers 88 and 89 will have a restaurant/cafe on the ground floor with residential on the top two floors.

For number 91, once a hairdressers, it is envisaged that the 1960s shop front will be removed and a change of use implemented to allow for the re-location of a tenant from Crown Street.

Number 83, is currently occupied by East Street Arts, which encourages the development of artists and provides studio space.

The venture is currently using a temporary change of use but it is intended to make that permanent.

This fits in with, and provides a staring point, for the direction Kirkgate Land wants to take - steering clear of retail and usual high street offerings.

The reasoning behind that is the inability to compete with the likes of the Trinity Centre and Victoria Gate but also to help the burgeoning group of creative and artistic start-ups waiting in the wings.

Further plans include a replacement for the Hills Furniture building which burned down and integrating the car park, making an arts quarter.

Mr Smithson added: “It is part of the bigger plan for the whole site. It allows for a bit of local enterprise and one offs rather than the multiple high street retailers which is not the target market.”

The area, one of the oldest streets in the city centre, is already starting to see some pockets of regeneration.

Number 92 Kirkgate has been restored with Wapentake, an artisan bakery, the city council has plans for the restoration of the First White Cloth Hall while the Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative provides funding to restore other areas of the street.

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