Paul Robinson looks at what the future has in store for Clarence Dock.
They flocked in their thousands to celebrate the opening of a waterfront development billed as the latest jewel in Leeds city centre’s leisure and retail crown.
TV fashion expert Gok Wan was also on hand to lend a touch of showbiz razzmatazz to the launch of Clarence Dock back in the autumn of 2008.
Sadly for Leeds, however, the excitement that accompanied the £250m mixed-use development’s opening has proved hard to sustain.
Around half of the site’s 35 shop units have never been occupied while some of the businesses that have moved to Clarence Dock have found themselves distinctly underwhelmed by their new surroundings.
Speaking at the end of last year, Roy Ramm, a director of the site’s Alea Casino, said: “[It] feels like a forgotten part of the city at the moment. The only thing that’s missing here is the tumbleweed.
”But now, finally, help could be at hand for Alea and the rest of the tenants at Clarence Dock, which is situated next to the Royal Armouries museum on the south-eastern edge of the city centre.
The site was taken over in January by Allied London, the property company responsible for the Spinningfields office-led scheme in Manchester.
Since then there has been talk of the firm having a ‘grand plan’ to revitalise the dock without any specifics being made public – until today, at least.
A council report has revealed that Allied London wants to rebrand the site as New Dock, the name it had from the 19th century through to the 1990s.
Existing ground floor units, say the report, will be altered to create “a new office hub for digital and creative industries”.
Tantalisingly, the report also says: “The proposals explore how a more positive use of the water space for floating retail, food, drink and office premises .... could be achieved.”
It goes on: “The proposals [also] aim to make Armouries Square, originally designed as a hard-surfaced events space for the Royal Armouries, more attractive for residents, workers and visitors to use during the day and in the evening.”
The report does not give any timescale for the changes that Allied London is hoping to implement.