THE Yorkshire Evening Post has joined forces with Leeds City Council to launch a celebration of the city. Here, we highlight the city’s ever-improving shopping offering and how, over the coming year, Leeds will become one of the country’s top three retail destinations.
THE focal point for Leeds retail over the coming 12 months is unquestionably the £350m Trinity retail and leisure development in the city centre. Small wonder since the project will move Leeds up the retail rankings to make us England’s third biggest shopping centre – that’s ahead of Manchester and just behind London’s West End and Birmingham.
Nestling between Briggate, Boar Lane, Commercial Street and Albion Street, the showpiece scheme, which has taken two years to build, is now almost 80 per cent let with just eight months to go before the big opening.
But the company is being selective as they sign up tenants. With big names like Hollister and Apple on board, they’re keen to get the right retailers in just the right spots.
Andrew Dudley showed us around the Trinity scheme as it enters its final phase. “We had an offer on this space,” he says, gesturing towards the large unite jutting into Boar Lane. “But we wanted to save that prime spot for someone more powerful.”
What makes Trinity unique in Leeds is the distinctive design of its glazed roof which has as a centrepiece a 100ft-high dome. Covering the point where all of the four entry levels meet in the centre, it effectively creates a whole new public space for Leeds.
Not surprisingly it’s been an engineering nightmare for Trinity.
“From one end of the site to the other you’re talking about a 20ft drop in level,” says Andrew, “which meant we had to be clever with the design in order to level that out as much as possible while working with the contours of the site.
“The dome itself has been a challenge. It’s taken 18 months to get it to this stage as it covers 40,000 sq ft and contains almost 2,000 individual glass panels.”
Trinity is important not just because of some of the prestige brands it is bringing but because of the capacity it provides – capacity which was previously unavailable in Leeds. Which is why lower to mid-market retail giants like Primark and Next will also get a large stake in the scheme.
But perhaps the most important aspect of Trinity is the connectivity it provides, stretching from City Square and the railway station in the west of the city centre to Briggate where the new Central Arcade opened earlier this year.
Previously this thoroughfare was a dark and smelly collection of mismatched retailers at odds with the evolving shopping scene in Leeds. But now the owners have made a huge investment in turning it into a light, bright, safe space – and one which leads right into one of the main entrances to Trinity.
But after 2013, all eyes are likely to turn east where the Eastgate scheme is moving at a pace. The development will eventually host 100 units in a space between the inner ring road and Vicar Lane.
At the centre of the development is intended to be a John Lewis department store. Although the upmarket retailer has yet to finalise the deal, the signs are all positive. If they do locate in Leeds it will also give the city its first real department store since Allders on the Headrow (previously Lewis’s) closed seven years ago.
But despite losing some sections of the retail sector and suffering somewhat as a result of the recession, Leeds has always held its current position at number six in the retail rankings, which is quite a feat given that we’re up against giant regional capitals like Manchester and Newcastle.
But as the new, large-scale projects come on line over the coming months and years all that is set to change – and change for the better.