Will car-free plan for Leeds city centre street help it turn a corner?

Greek Street in Leeds, which will be pedestrianised. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Greek Street in Leeds, which will be pedestrianised. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
0
Have your say

EVER since City Buzz first revealed that Greek Street was set to rise from the ashes, we’ve been eagerly watching as one of the city’s biggest revamps takes shape.

Greek Street, which is undergoing a £20m rejuvenation, will be closed off to traffic as part of a six-month trial to turn it into a ‘vibrant’ hub of activity.

Greek Street, Leeds. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Greek Street, Leeds. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Bars and restaurants in the area are planning street parties, tasting events, masterclasses and more throughout the summer, and will be allowed to serve customers on the traffic-free street.

The bold move to pedestrianise the road follows on from the success of Merrion Street, which has become a key nightspot after it was closed to traffic in 2014.

CLICK FOR MORE YEP NEWS HEADLINES

The leader of Leeds City Council, councillor Judith Blake, said: “This is great news for Greek Street and is a major part of our efforts to support businesses and make the city centre more attractive for residents and visitors.

“We want Leeds to have the most vibrant city centre in the country and that means we have to get behind schemes like this that improve the look and feel of outdoor spaces.

“The Merrion Street scheme has had a transformative effect on that area of the city centre and I’m sure that success will now be replicated on Greek Street.”

A string of new venues have clamoured for a spot on the now sought-after street, with the likes of The Alchemist, The Liquorist, Gusto and 7 Greek Street Social all arriving in the past year.

A cool £20m has also been spent on rejuvenating the area’s outside space, with better pedestrian access and more attractive areas for those stopping for a lunch break.

Some of the cash from the Evans Property Group is also going towards making room for a new 90-bed boutique Dakota hotel, as well as the refurbishment of 50,000sq ft of prime offices.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE DEBATE ON THE YEP FACEBOOK PAGE

The rush of investment has helped pick the street up out of the rut it found itself in just a couple of years ago, when bars like OK Karaoke, Prohibition and Quid Pro Quo shut their doors.

But if it’s going to reach its full potential as a go-to, high-end night spot, the issue of traffic is one that needs to be addressed.

Cars and taxis often clog up the street on a weekend, causing a disjointed feel to the otherwise thriving part of the city.

But the new plans to pedestrianise the street and turn it into the city centre’s largest outdoor drinking and dining area could help change that.

A six-month trial will see the road closed off to traffic from 5pm to midnight on Thursdays and Fridays, and 1pm to 12am on Saturdays and Sundays.

It follows the example set by Merrion Street, which has gone from a loose collection of bars to the place to be since it was pedestrianised back in 2014.

To mark the start of the trial on Thursday, April 28, The Alchemist, Gusto, The Liquorist, Bem Brasil, All Bar One and Wagamama will host a street party with food and cocktail tastings from 5pm.

The leader of Leeds City Council, councillor Judith Blake, said: “This is great news for Greek Street and is a major part of our efforts to support businesses and make the city centre more attractive for residents and visitors.

“We want Leeds to have the most vibrant city centre in the country and that means we have to get behind schemes like this that improve the look and feel of outdoor spaces.

“The Merrion Street scheme has had a transformative effect on that area of the city centre and I’m sure that success will now be replicated on Greek Street.”

A spokesman for Living Ventures, which owns Greek Street venues Gusto and The Alchemist, said: “We are delighted that Leeds City Council is taking this step, as we feel it will add to the already vibrant evening atmosphere that Leeds has and help make Greek Street a key city centre destination.

“This trial will enable us to offer more to visitors in the form of outside seating areas and staging different events bringing new life to Greek Street.”

The plans are a great step in the right direction and we hope that if it proves to be a success, it will be extended when the trial comes to an end on October 30.

Thanks to this traffic-free concept, we think this little corner of the city centre is about to be streets ahead of the competition.

The protest by Leeds Trades Council on Saturday

Show of ‘solidarity’ for strikers