THE NEW owners of Leeds Corn Exchange have revealed plans for “evolution” of the landmark historic building - which it says is “core” to the revival of the Kirkgate area of the city.
Developer Rushbond purchased the Grade 1-listed 19th century building for an undisclosed sum in March.
It has released details of a “new programme of investment and activities” for 2018 - including a new cafeteria called The Yard on the lower ground floor, with a focus on independent food offerings and public space.
Traders will be encouraged to return to independent design elements tailored to their own brand, including new signage and colourful shop fronts.
And subject to planning approval, washrooms will be upgraded and accessibility inside the building improved.
Rushbond said the plans were part of a wider investment by it and other bodies around Kirkgate, including the First White Cloth Hall, an early 18th century building which provide the first secure and sheltered premises for the sale of undyed cloth in the city, which it bought in February.
Director of real estate at Rushbond, Mark Finch, said: “The Corn Exchange is at the core of the revival of the Kirkgate neighbourhood.
“Our proposals are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, with a series of measures to improve the experience, offer and qualities of this wonderful asset to a wider audience. These include key accessibility improvements, including new sensitively-designed ramps, the re-configuration and re-activation of the lower ground floor, through a new Kitchen Yard to enhance the overall food offer, and a transformational programme of art works and design interventions, to create a more vibrant internal environment.
“These plans are part of the wider investment plans by us and others in the Kirkgate neighbourhood, including the First White Cloth Hall.”
The chief executive of Leeds Business Improvement District (BID), Andrew Cooper, welcomed the plans.
He said: “The Corn Exchange is an impressive building at the heart of the Kirkgate area of Leeds.
“The rejuvenation brought by Rushbond is very welcome ensuring that the independent retail offer continues to thrive. Leeds BID has been pleased to support the area, practically, through our street ranger team, and via our events and Christmas programme.”
Leeds Civic Trust have been consulted on the proposals.
Director Martin Hamilton said: “As it is a listed building, Rushbond is limited in terms of what it can do to alter the building - but anything that increases the number of people that use the Corn Exchange has got to be a good thing.
“Improving the toilets, signage, disabled access and giving it a bit of a makeover are all relatively light touches but should hopefully have an impact.
“The Corn Exchange has a bit of a chequered past, with periods when it was not in use - we want to see it used well and Rushbond seem to want to find the recipe to make it successful again.”