Rod McPhee: Exchanged back

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YOU’VE got to hand it to the people behind the Corn Exchange – they might have pulled apart the old concept but they’ve done a pretty good job of putting it back together.

I discovered this after straying inside a couple of Saturdays ago with the aim of grabbing a coffee. You should see what they’ve done with the place.

Ingeniously they seem to have refilled the empty units (which made up about all two-thirds of the potential shop space) with lots of vintage clothes stores.

This may seem like a slightly odd choice (and no doubt something they won’t maintain forever) but in doing so they’ve restored some of the bohemian edge that characterised the building’s former incarnation.

Meanwhile, on the first level, above Anthony’s Restaurant in the basement, the main floor is a maze of little stalls. This is just as it was when the old ‘new’ Corn Exchange was first unveiled back in the 1990s.

Which prompts me to say this just one more time: why on earth did they change it in the first place?

Anyway, the point is that the exchange building is close to being back to its old self, and not only does it have the ambience of its former glory but it simultaneously looks shiny and new and far more sophisticated.

No more kite shop, no more grunge shop, no more condom shop (yes, that really did exist and, yes, it really was full of condoms).

If the managers hope to pack the place back up with plush retailers then they shouldn’t have too many problems, certainly not low footfall.

On the afternoon I wandered through, the place was bustling just as it always was – it seems rumours of a revival have started to disseminate.

And thank goodness they have because it would be a tragedy if the Corn Exchange’s profile had been irreparably damaged.

It just feels, well, Leedsy again. It doesn’t feel like a concept parachuted in from the blue sky thinking of some bright spark in a loft-style office in Camden somewhere.

The idea of changing it into an all-food emporium was never going to work, recession or no recession.

No matter, we’ve got it back now – though, I must admit, I still miss the grunge, condoms and kites.

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