Leeds has come a long way in recent years, but there are still a number of empty buildings that are waiting to become part of the city’s extensive regeneration.
From shiny new arcades and shopping centres to fancy residential areas and new arenas, the city’s regeneration over the past decade is something to be proud of. But that doesn’t mean our work here is done as there are still a surprising number of empty buildings in Leeds that have a huge amount of potential. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before that potential is fulfilled…
1. Hunslet Mill & Victoria Works
On the banks of the River Aire, the imposing 7 storey Hunslet Mill and Victoria Works stand as a shadow of their former selves in amongst an area of hyper-regeneration. Hunslet Mill was home to 1500 workers as a flax mill in the 1800s, while the adjacent Victoria Works came a few years later, but both have been empty since the 1970s. It’s a shame, as this is an impressive site that, with some ingenuity and bravery from its owners, Evans and Caddick, could become an impressive example of the city’s regeneration.
Hunslet Mill & Victoria Works, Goodman Street, Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1NY.
2. Warehouse Hill
Like many buildings on the city’s riverside in the 18th and 19th century, Warehouse Hill was a vital cog in Leeds’ industrial wheels. Opened in 1725, they were built to house goods being transported down the river, and its activity grew as the city’s influence did – but by 1973, The Calls had become derelict. While much of the area has now changed for the better, the buildings from 20 to 24 The Calls are still empty, and believed to be unstable after years of neglect. Will they go the same way as their neighbour, which was demolished earlier this year, or can they yet be saved?
20-24 The Calls, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EW.
3. First White Cloth Hall
First White Cloth Hall is one of the most important buildings in Leeds. It played a huge role in the city’s rise as a major industrial player and was an intrinsic part of Leeds’ commerce for over 250 years. Unfortunately, it has been left to deteriorate since the 1970s, with key stakeholders and owners repeatedly failing to save it – as a result, half of the building has collapsed. But there’s hope at the end of the tunnel, because a compulsory purchase order will soon see the building back in the hands of the Council. It will then become the centrepiece of the Kirkgate Heritage Initiative, which will see millions invested in the area’s renovation.
First White Cloth Hall, 98-101 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DP.
4. Mount St Mary’s Church
Just on the outskirts of the city centre in Richmond Hill, Mount St Mary’s Church is a striking example of neo-Gothic architecture and is probably one of the best looking churches in the city. Or it would be, if it hadn’t been left to its own devices since 1989. Its windows are smashed, empty or boarded up and its brickwork is starting to fall away, while inside its stunning design is only home to nature these days. It would be a real shame to see a church as beautiful as Mount St Mary’s Church go to waste, particularly when the likes of Left Bank are proving that repurposing churches can be extremely successful indeed.
Mount St Mary’s Church, Church Road Richmond Hill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8LA.
5. York Road Library
As one of the busiest routes in and out of Leeds, there’s plenty going on along York Road. However, its finest piece of architecture hasn’t been used properly for 30 years. It used to be a library and baths, standing out for amazing features like the commanding clock embedded onto the cupola, floor mosaics and intricate masonry. It’s quite incredible that a building with such stunning and historic features could be left empty for so long – but whoever takes on this little gem of an institution will have oodles of character to play with. Let’s hope that comes along sooner, rather than later.
York Road Library, York Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8TD.
6. Crown Point Road
After the regeneration of The Tetley and the conversion of Sheaf Street Cafeteria nearby, the former Crown Hotel and adjacent houses are a proper sight for sore eyes. The Crown Hotel has been closed for decades and its eye-catching rounded front has been left with bricked up windows and doorways, while next door, the houses, built at an interesting angle, are in a sorry state of repair. With a host of thriving creative spaces around them, it could be the next big thing, particularly if the South Bank of Leeds continues to grow as planned over the coming years.
Crown Point Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1HD.
7. Elinor Lupton Centre
Along Headingley Lane, the Elinor Lupton Centre stands out a mile, in both good and bad ways. The stunning neo-classical design of the former school and university building makes it a powerful piece of architecture which is at odds with the rows of houses around it, yet its potential remains untapped. JD Wetherspoon bought it for around £1.5 million in 2014 and although plans for a new bar have been stalled for years due to local objections, they’re still determined to make it happen – and honestly, we’re with them all the way. Isn’t it better to have this beautiful building in use and open to the public than leaving it to rot?
Elinor Lupton Centre, Headingley Lane, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1BX.
8. The Star and Garter Pub
The likes of Pieminister, Caracas Grill and Five Guys have given Duncan Street a real boost after years of neglect, but attention now turns to another unkempt building in a gem of a spot. Adjoining with Call Lane, this corner unit used to be well known as The Star and Garter pub, which was popular until it closed in the 1970s. It’s remained boarded up since, and though getting a license might well be tricky in this part of town, it’s a prime piece of real estate in an area of the city that’s absolutely buzzing. So why are the owners, Samuel Smith’s Brewery, sitting on it?
The Star and Garter, 22 Duncan Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DL.
9. The Scala Theatre
Would you believe that just off Albion Place and Briggate, there’s a secret theatre that hasn’t been used in decades? The Scala Theatre opened in 1922, and was a bustling part of the city’s nightlife for three decades before falling out of use. Tucked away behind what used to be Miss Selfridge, it hasn’t been touched, and has barely been seen in over 50 years. It hides an amazing marble staircase and a stage that’s still intact – surely it’s time the city made use out of it once again?
The Scala Theatre, 14-22 Lands Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6AW.
10. Third White Cloth Hall
It’s actually just a section of Third White Cloth Hall that stands empty, but given its history and location, that alone is reason to raise an eyebrow. The unit, which sits next to pizza express, has been left unloved since Upstaged Vintage shut their doors in 2014. While the area around it has changed, with old places closing and new venues opening in their place, this one unit has been overlooked – hopefully it will be given a new lease of life soon.
Third White Cloth Hall, No 1 White Cloth Hall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DA.
11. The Elbow Room
When The Elbow Room shut in 2014, it was the end of an era. It was once one of the most popular bars in Leeds, but found itself out of favour as a host of new bars opened in the city. Now a huge two floor bar on one of Leeds’ busiest streets lies empty – and since the license on the property has expired, it’s possible that we may not see any real movement on it for some time. Whoever does take it on will have a cracking spot in an area that practically guarantees footfall.
The Elbow Room, 64 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
12. Jubilee Hotel
How the mighty fall – The Jubilee Hotel is one of the finest buildings in Leeds city centre. It’s intricate terracotta facade guarded one of the the city’s most popular hotels up until the 1970s. After years of neglect, it was taken over as a ‘Gentleman’s Club’ until Leeds City Council got strict, and kicked the bulk of them out. Based on The Headrow, it could be a wise investment for a hotelier, if only they could see its potential.
The Jubilee Hotel, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2QS.
13. Merrion Centre Cinema
Way back when, Leeds was awash with amazing cinemas, big and small – including one in the Merrion Centre. The popular cinema was open from 1964 until 1977, but while the projectors and seats have been removed, much of it has been left untouched. The old entrance is covered up by the cash machines next to Home Bargains, and there are double doors on the first floor where you used to be able to access it. There were once rumours of a trampoline park, but that’s all gone quiet – will it ever be put back into use?
Merrion Centre Cinema, Merrion Centre, Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NG.
14. Fearnville House
Despite the fact that Fearnville House was previously been split up into five separate flats, it hasn’t been used for many years. This once proud country home was built at the start of the 19th century, but for decades it’s been left to rot, with public access all too easy, even if the building is now considered a hazard. The fact it’s so neglected has meant that it has succumbed to absolute dereliction, to the point where nature has taken over large parts of the building, but hopefully not for forever.
Fearnville House, Dib Lane, Hollin Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 3AY.
15. Brotherton House
Towering above Westgate, Brotherton House is one of the most eye-catching brutalist structures in Leeds city centre, yet it lies empty. Built in 1956, it was originally used by chemicals and dyestuffs company Brotherton and Co before being purchased by Leeds City Police as an administrative headquarters. However, for the past decade it’s been empty. Plans were put forward for 63 apartments in the 56,000 square foot building in 2014, but since then, it’s all gone quiet. That said, 1950s architecture is back in vogue again, so Brotherton House could be a real asset for the city.
Brotherton House, Westgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2RS.