Created 28th February 2022

By David Cran, Director at Bradley Hall Yorkshire

For the last decade, Leeds has become one of the UK’s trailblazing cities for enterprise, culture, and development attracting significant businesses to the area as well as huge investment and demand for commercial space across a number of sectors.

The most recent statistics published, based on data collected from Q1-Q3 2021, showcased that take up totalled almost half-a-million sq ft, unsurprisingly surpassing take up from Q1-Q3 2020 by 93%. It is also expected that total take up is 10% less than the five year average for Q3, however recent major project announcements show a positive sentiment and suggest that the recovery is set to continue to pre-covid performance and beyond.

The joint venture formed to bring forward the £280 million development of Leeds’ Whitehall Riverside recently took a step forward, moving closer to the launch of a project which is set to substantially alter the city’s built environment. City-based property investor and car parking operator, Town Centre Securities Plc, has joined with Glenbrook to create a new masterplan which is being proposed - providing a mixed-use scheme in a strategic location just three minutes’ walk from Leeds train station.

Design and build contractors, McAleer & Rushe have also began construction of £47m City Square House, next to Leeds Station, in May 2021 and the first construction milestone has now been achieved with the erection of its first tower crane. The landmark building will start to emerge as the steel superstructure rises from the ground. Completion is planned for summer 2023 and the opening will coincide with the completion of the public realm improvements at City Square.

In other news for Leeds city centre, The 35,846 sq ft Lumina building is the second Grade A office to be developed by Scarborough Group International (SGI) as part of phase two development at Thorpe Park Leeds. Coverings Ltd, which owns distribution and retail businesses within the tile and flooring industry, has secured the entire 10,600 sq ft first floor at Lumina on a ten-year lease. The business is relocating its team of 100 people from its existing premises at Project House in Armley, Leeds. Specialist commercial interior design company, Design Tonic has recently completed the fit-out of the space.

The growth of the education, tech and life science sectors have made a considerable impact on the commercial property market, however a lack of affordable, interesting and collaborative space which draw in innovative organisations and talent are limited. Supply is generally an issue – currently sitting 25% below the five-year average level – with Grade A space in undersupply. Throughout Q1-Q3 of 2021 Grade A space accounted for 45% of take up. Whilst hybrid working is here to stay, the pandemic also highlighted the importance of collaborative working within a productive and nurturing work environment – and we can expect the requirement for such space to continue to grow.

While retail market remains challenging due to changes in consumer habits, rising rents and the success of e-commerce – a range of temporary occupier initiatives known as ‘meanwhile’ projects have developed throughout the city. The concept has been designed to fill empty space whilst offering flexible opportunities for up-and-coming local businesses.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority is facilitating collaboration across local authorities to stimulate and share best practice on ‘meanwhile’ uses. Its dedicated website to such space states that; “Over the last decade, Leeds has supported numerous independently-led ‘meanwhile’ use projects, with notable successes achieved in partnership with East Street Arts. In the wake of recent changes to the way people are using space and accessing retail, Leeds is now working with partners to activate vacant shop units across the city centre. As the city prepares the way for Leeds 2023, it is also exploring how ‘meanwhile’ activity can help to seed new projects that will play a key role in this landmark year of culture.”

Leeds’ 2023 bid to become the European Capital of Culture will certainly ramp up activity, mainly in the creative sector – with its main aim being a strong economic recovery for the city following the pandemic. Cllr James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “It’s inspiring to see so many partners united in their shared belief in culture and the integral role LEEDS 2023 will play in making Leeds such a unique place to live, work and visit in the coming year.

“Culture is the heartbeat of Leeds, enriching the lives, health and wellbeing of people living in our communities and enhancing the city as a whole. It has also been a catalyst for some of the most exciting developments and investments the city has seen in recent years, including the arrival of Channel 4, the UK Infrastructure Bank and the vision British Library has for its future presence in the north.

“LEEDS 2023 will be both a celebration of everything we’ve achieved together as a city as well as a massive statement of intent about our ambition for Leeds to be an international standard-bearer for the nurture and support of creative talent, innovation and culture-led inclusive growth.”

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