IT’S POSSIBLY one of the oldest streets in Leeds, but one of the few corners of the city that’s yet to get a real taste of the glitz and glamour that other areas have enjoyed.
But that could all be about to change, with the first few green shoots starting to show in what it’s hoped could be a big renaissance for Kirkgate.
New Yorkshire-themed café, bar and deli Wapentake opens its doors today, selling some of the best produce from God’s Own County.
Flying the flag for Yorkshire, it sells beer and cocktails as well as breakfast to eat-in or take away, and even has its own artisan bakery.
Owner Anton Welburn, who owns Wepantake with business partner Emily Youell, said: “We’ve got a whole fridge dedicated to Yorkshire beers and will have Yorkshire spirits such as Masons Gin.
“We’re using Kirkgate Market to get a lot of the food so we are going to be as local as we can be.”
Wapentake is in an 18th-century building that was a former cloth merchant’s home.
After a £110,000 investment from the Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Leeds City Council, it has been given a new lease of life.
Thanks to the funding. the new café site has been re-roofed, had new windows installed and its traditional shop front reinstated.
The project aims to protect and preserve key parts of the city’s heritage and it is hoped the investment will help kickstart the regeneration of the area.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration transport and planning, said: “It’s wonderful to see this important and historic building brought back into use in such a contemporary way.
“This is a major step on the road to returning this area to its former glory.
“Lower Kirkgate is such a fundamental part of the city’s heritage that has sadly been neglected for too long, and we are determined to not only see it preserved, but for investment to take place that will help it become the thriving, vibrant place we know it can be.
“By helping businesses to see the potential in these buildings, we are confident we can accomplish that vision and that Lower Kirkgate will once again be part of the heartbeat of Leeds.”
Speaking about his vision for the area, Anton added: “It has been a bit neglected over the years but now it’s getting investment we want to try and create a community round here to push the whole street forward.
“The footfall here is massive, with the market and the Corn Exchange so close, and that will only get better when John Lewis arrives.
“With all the new development around Kirkgate, it’s especially important for us to fly the flag for Leeds and Yorkshire.”
Wapentake isn’t the only building that will get a facelift, as the First White Cloth Hall is undergoing a transformation too, and with further investment from THI, public funding and potential private funding, the area could see an investment of £2.6m.
With Victoria Gate opening nearby next year, there’s never been a better time to invest in this once forgotten part of Leeds. Let’s hope the city’s oldest street continues to thrive for many years to come.