Co-living Headrow House development for young people in Leeds gets mixed reception

A scheme to create one of Leeds’ first dedicated co-living spaces for the city’s twenty-somethings has received a mixed response.

By David Spereall
Sunday, 17th July 2022, 4:45 am

Developers Watkin Jones have outlined plans to redevelop Headrow House in the city centre and convert it into a complex with 232 studio flats.

The flats would be accompanied by communal areas and would be targeted at graduates and young professionals.

Headrow House was once home to offices but is now lying empty.

An artists impression of the exterior

No planning application has been submitted yet, but the developers offered city councillors a first glimpse of their ideas at a meeting on Thursday, along with a number of designs.

Alex Glenister, from Watkin Jones, said: “This is an attractive and prominent building on The Headrow.

“In recent years office space has migrated to the west and south of Leeds city centre and the building is now empty.

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An artist's impression of one of the rooms in the co-housing space

“We believe the building works well for co-living. We want to create a high-quality living environment which will encourage working people into the city, aiding spending and the economy.”

Among the communal features would be laundry facilities, kitchens, common rooms with televisions and a newly landscaped rooftop terrace.

Councillors’ opinions of the ideas were split however, when they were asked for feedback.

Councillor Robert Finnigan said he was “comfortable” with the idea in principle and said: “It looks interesting. It’s a proposal for us to perhaps explore in more detail when it comes back.

“There will always be issues with what you’re going to do with your office buildings post-pandemic.

“Unless you come up with something imaginative, you’re going to end up with boarded up buildings because they’ll never be used as offices again.”

However Labour councillor Kayleigh Brooks, who represents a city centre area, was scathing about the scheme, having expressed unease about the small size of the studio flats.

She said: “I’m genuinely really upset that developers think they can pull the wool over people’s eyes and sell this as a choice you’d make.

“It’s another way to make more money out of young people who are going to be forever priced out of buying their own properties.

“If you’re finding it really difficult to find somewhere affordable to live in Leeds then you may be forced to live somewhere like this.

“There’s a housing crisis and we can’t allow developers to push the enveloper this much.”