City Buzz: Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Lumiere?

Central Square, Leeds city centre.
Central Square, Leeds city centre.
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IT’S fair to say that some of us have a bit of a troubled past.

And sometimes the longer you’ve been on the block, the more difficulties you’ve probably faced.

This is certainly true in one case – and I’m not talking about a person here.

I’m talking about the poor old ‘Lumiere’ site, which has had more than its fair share of problems in the past.

Starting off as what was billed to be the tallest building in Leeds, plans for the impressive skyscraper were put on hold in 2008 and completely crumbled away beneath us two years later when the credit crunch hit.

Leaving us with an empty site full of dirt and a few weeds, it was an eyesore to say the least.

It used to tug at the heartstrings every time I walked down Wellington Street and saw the lack of faith investors had, as no-one seemingly wanted to touch it with a bargepole.

It was a clear sign that there wasn’t a lot of faith in the financial state of the city at that point.

But now (and I don’t want to speak too soon), it seems like some pretty big progress is being made.

The newly-renamed Central Square is taking shape before our eyes on the same site.

Excitement is already building, with people stopping to stare at the construction workers towering above them and even webcams being set up to capture every second of the building work.

Fancy CGI images of the proposed plans show how the site will come to life, with plenty of leisure space and the largest office space in Leeds at 220,000 sq ft.

The site, which stretches over Whitehall Road and Wellington Street, will feature an 11-storey office block, restaurant, bar, gym and a ‘winter garden’.

City Buzz recently heard the rooftop bar will strictly be for Central Square workers only, which is slightly disappointing.

But the ground floor leisure and retail units will be for the public, and we can reveal that advanced discussions are ongoing with one coffee shop and one high-end restaurant – which will be brand new to Leeds city centre.

From that little hint it seems there is hope on the horizon for the Central Square site. It’s a bold sign that the tides are turning and businesses are once again keen to invest in the thriving city of Leeds.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for city centre residents and workers with the to-ing and fro-ing of this site but this is a sure sign that the city is fighting back after the financial crisis.

And there’s more good news for this side of the city centre.

With the Leeds train station revamp already underway and work continuing to revamp the Majestic building, things could be taking a positive turn.

There are also rumours that the area could get a hotel just down the road on Whitehall Road.

And Central Square has sparked a similar scheme nearby at 6 Wellington Place, where building work is gathering pace on the five-story office park, which is believed to be costing tens of millions of pounds.

All of this investment in Leeds city centre can only be a good thing.

Let’s just hope this new addition to the city skyline will be the light at the end of the tunnel for the former Lumiere site.