What a difference a decade makes, especially in Leeds – the city has seen plenty of changes since 2006.
Leeds in 2006 compared to Leeds in 2016 is like you’re looking at two different cities. Back then a lot was needed to see Leeds become a destination city once again, and while there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the past decade has seen us reach some landmarks, from a Michelin star to a massive arena and a shiny new shopping centre.
A bloomin’ huge arena
For years, Leeds was a bereft of a top class entertainment venue. When the Queen’s Hall shut down in the 1980s, the city struggled to attract the biggest names when they toured the UK, bar for one-offs at Roundhay Park and Elland Road. Enter First Direct Arena, which since its opening in 2013 has seen the likes of Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam and Eagles play, putting Leeds firmly on the musical map.
A massive, modern shopping centre
By the 2000s, Leeds city centre was stuck in the past, with only the Victoria Quarter and the arcades really offering something to make the city a retail destination. After years of uncertainty and the impact of the economic recession, the opening of Trinity Leeds in 2013 transformed the centre, blending big name arrivals like Everyman Cinema and Apple, with longstanding favourites like M&S and Topshop, as well as seeing some quality food and drink venues open up.
A cracking Michelin starred restaurant
2005 saw Leeds lose the sole Michelin star it possessed when Pool Court closed down, but just over a decade later, we’ve managed to regain one. That’s down to the ingenious creativity of Michael O’Hare at his Vicar Lane restaurant, The Man Behind The Curtain. He sources only the finest local and imported produce and magics up a menu like nothing you’ve seen before, from raw langoustine to violet ice cream with potato and vanilla custard.
A shiny new train station entrance
A decade ago, Leeds train station didn’t have a Southern entrance, but believe it or not, if you go back another 10 years before that, it did. Fast forward to 2016, and it’s been reinstated, as we’ve just seen the new entrance open after two years of work by Granary Wharf. Costing £20 million, it’s believed around 100,000 people will use it on a daily basis, shaving up to 5 minutes from their journeys on average, and better connecting Leeds’ growing south bank.
A secure future for Leeds Corn Exchange
Back in the 2007, Leeds Corn Exchange found itself in a spot of trouble. The iconic Cuthbert Brodrick-deisgned building became an independent hub in the 90s before struggling once again, so when Zurich Financial Services took over in 2005, they decided to turn it into a food court with Anthony’s taking centre stage downstairs. That didn’t work out, so it returned to its original purpose, as a hub for the city’s independents – the recovery was a slow one, but it’s now jam-packed with indies and has a bright future ahead of it.
An abundance of street food
The food and drink scene in Leeds has shifted massively in the past decade. While there was plenty of choice 10 years ago, Leeds now finds itself at the heart of the street food movement that has taken over the UK, whether that’s in putting on events like Belgrave Feast and having a unique food court like Trinity Kitchen, or seeing the likes of Nom Deli, Bundobust or Bangwok make permanent homes here.
An ever-growing business hub
It’s not just residents that have benefited from recent changes – businesses are getting in on the action too. The likes of Sovereign Square and Wellington Place have seen huge names like Sky, KPMG and Allianz all locate in the city – in fact, Leeds was ranked as the fourth most attractive city outside of London for inward investment, according to the The Business Location Index 2014.
A bustling Granary Wharf
After considerable success as a shopping centre in the 1990s, Granary Wharf was on its last legs by 2006. The shops had closed and the old Blank Canvas was all set to put on its last shows. Today, it couldn’t be more different. New buildings have popped up, housing flats, offices, bars and restaurants, with the likes of Candlebar, The Hop, Fazenda, SkyLounge and Bilbao Bar making it one of the city’s finest food and drink destinations.
A developing South Bank
Having once been the hub of Yorkshire’s industrial power, Leeds’ South Bank was in considerable decline for decades. That’s all changed now though, as the area has become a key focus for city centre regeneration, with Holbeck Urban Village, Leeds Dock and the surrounding areas all changing massively. Old industrial buildings have been repurposed, creating a hub for Leeds’ thriving digital industries, as well as a host of residential and office buildings that hold the likes of ASDA, DWF and Ernst and Young.
A thriving craft beer scene
Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to imagine Leeds with just one craft beer bar – but back then it was North Bar flying the flag on its own. And while they continue to do just that, introducing a brewery to their offering as well, they’re now accompanied by a host of bars & breweries who are just as obsessed with craft beer. From the likes of Leeds, Kirkstall, Ilkley and Northern Monk to the opening of Friends of Ham, Tapped and Bundobust – if you want craft beer, Leeds will be happy to oblige.