In ten years’ time, Leeds will be the best looking city in the UK.
This ambitious prediction comes from three men who know the city and know the property business like the back of their hands.
With developments of new housing, high rises and now eco-living taking the city by storm, directors at Nick Brown Architects, Nick Brown, Anthony Georgallis and Martin Cook have been at the heart of it for years.
The trio have collaborated on several projects and are currently working on projects in the city’s most up-and-coming district – South Bank and Holbeck Urban Village (HUV) – and say it will be the ‘piece de resistance’ in the future regeneration of the city centre.
Mr Brown said: “The main thing about the opportunity for Leeds is that everything is so close. It is a huge regeneration but a compact city. With a 10 to 15 minute walk you can cover the city centre. In 10 years’ time Leeds will be an amazing city centre – much better visually and in terms of the use of space compared to other cities in the UK.”
The trio say it will be hinged on the Vastint development on the Tetley site but before that gets underway there are other smaller pockets which will be completed sooner and filling the gaps such as Dandara, Iron Works, Midland Mill, Tower Works, Manor Road and Radius.
Just across the way, Whitehall Road continues to provide an extension to the city centre boundary with residential, office and leisure developments such as bars and shops to serve the area’s growing population.
Coming up is the BAM Monk Bridge and FiftyThree Point Eight projects taking up land right up to the viaduct.
Mr Georgallis said: “Tower Works is central because it is the link to Granary Wharf and that central island. It will make that area fantastic. The feel and vibe will be like no other part of the city. It was where the last boom flourished.
“Whitehall Road is interesting, there will be schemes coming through that are mixed use and residential. That gap between Whitehall Road and HUV will close and merge but some developments won’t start for two to three years so we are looking at 2022 before we start seeing the visual gap being filled.”
This next wave of developments, however, is set to be another level beyond what we have seen already.
In recent months the city council’s Plans Panel has seen more family-orientated developments, with more emphasis on gardens, outdoor space and a community feel - such as CEG at Kirkstall Forge and Canal Mills.
This is partly down to a lowered housing target for the city, with 42,384 homes required by 2033 now instead of the original figure of 70,000 by 2028, but also due to a shift in city living trends.
Mr Brown said: “There is greater expectation across the board. The council is pushing for quality on buildings but the residents and tenants expect and demand more, funders and institutions expect high quality. It is great for us that there is now a real push to make sure these buildings last the test of time which means the investment up front has to be higher.”
Designs for forthcoming developments are very much Dutch and Scandinavian influenced with modern, open plan, eco-friendly homes with plenty of living and outdoor space.
He added: “They have been leading the way in terms of urban placement and there is a lot to learn from them. They have a similar climate and levels of natural light to ours but the quality of spaces people live in in the cities always seems to be better than the UK.
“One of the excellent things about the South Bank is that there is an emphasis on quality of space and it gives Leeds an opportunity to be on the map in terms of quality of design. It is the biggest regeneration project in Europe.”