Central Leeds: New study reveals Victoria Gate effect

Leeds's Victoria Gate shopping centre.
Leeds's Victoria Gate shopping centre.
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Over the next 10 years it is estimated that the Victoria Gate Shopping Centre will have attracted in excess of £82m worth of investment into Leeds.

It will generate £16m in wages, £2.2m of income tax will have gone into the government’s coffers and £4.9m will have been paid in business rates to the public purse.

Pretty big bucks but, what has been the local impact seen by everyday people at grassroots from one of the most talked about developments in the city for decades?

In what is an industry first, Hammerson, the developer behind the £165m leisure destination (which has just had two no expense spared flagship restaurant and bar launches), has released an in-depth report entitled, “True Value of Retail”.

Mark Bourgeois, the Hammerson managing director for the UK and Northern Ireland said: “We are passionate about what we do to create amazing places for shoppers, guests, that are desirable for businesses and making a positive impact on all of the communities in which we invest.

“The report is an industry first and it is important to get this message across to central government.”

“Retail has had a bad reputation of late, people look upon it as not a great place to be. There is a real obligation on all of us in the business and public sector to work together and make positive contributions to society. Seeing these stories are pretty inspiring for all of the people involved in the business.”

The figures show that Hammerson has made a £140,000 investment to the local community, generated an estimated extra £300,000 worth of local spend from construction workers and made a £270,000 section 106 contribution which has been earmarked for improvements to transport infrastructure.

Prior to construction work on the centre starting, behind the scenes Hammerson was teaming up with the Leeds Community Foundation to offer a £15,000 pot of grant funding that local groups and causes could apply to tap into for up to £2000.

One of the most significant impacts has been at The Hunslet Club, used by 2000 young people per week to enjoy activities such as football, gymnastics, dance and theatre.

A £2,000 grant was put towards starting the Hunslet Club Community Homes Scheme. The organisation has since bought a semi-derelict terraced house in Beeston which has been blighting the street for 15 years.

As well as providing training to 20, peoplen aged 14 to 18 in joinery, brick-laying and carpentry and paving the way for obtaining BTec qualifications the house has been let to a local family on an affordable and fixed term let.

Kate Hainsworth, development director at Leeds Community Foundation said: “When Hammerson approached us in 2015 to develop a grant programme we were delighted to open the Victoria Gate Community Grant Fund.

“It has made a substantial difference to not just the groups but other businesses across the city and the UK.

“Some of the stories might seem small scale but it is right to say that it is a considerable and strategic investment into the community.

“The groups that we have supported have gone on to do a lot of extra work with further support from the Foundation.

“We don’t claim to have all of the answers but we really appreciate having being able to work with Hammerson, it matters and it makes a difference.”

Hammerson has also made financial contributions to other projects, already established in the city and helping others.

It has worked with the Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s weekly work club which helps some of Leeds’ most vulnerable residents, ex-offenders, refugees or alcoholics to write CVs and apply for jobs and prepare for interviews.

Hammerson also made a grant to the Shine Project from south Leeds based St Luke’s Cares which supports girls who are classed as vulnerable or at risk.

The cash boost was put towards refurbishing a shop unit in Beeston Hill to form Shine Nail Bar offering affordable treatments and work placement opportunities.

In partnership with Leeds United, grant funding was put towards training unemployed people to work in The Corner Flag cafe - a drop in centre to help dementia sufferers and carers.

Hammerson has also collaborated with one of the city’s most influential art movements East Street Arts to transform a previously derelict building at 130 Vicar Lane.

It is now an art and cultural hub where Leeds artists are encouraged to make, create and exhibit work. For example, Leeds Print Workshop has since developed into a flourishing start up working with local businesses and few will have missed the mural overlooking the train station.