So much has happened over the last year, you’d be forgiven for missing a thing or two…
Leeds is changing at a rapid pace – so fast, in fact, that you might have missed a thing or two over the last year. But don’t worry, because we’ve looked back at the big announcements, the new developments and the latest additions, so you can catch up in a few short minutes.
Victoria Gate opened its doors
It’s been the talk of the town for what feels like forever, but Victoria Gate is finally complete. The multi-million pound shopping centre opened its doors on Thursday 20th October 2016, welcoming in the public to explore a host of new shops, restaurants and cafes in the landmark development. As well as the new John Lewis store, it boasts new brands like Anthropologie, Neom Organics and T2, not to mention eateries like Cau and Le Pain Quotidien.
So did the UTC Leeds
The new UTC (University Technical College) is one of the most exciting new additions to Leeds. It’s a government-funded academy, designed to give young people technical and engineering skills, helping to bridge the skills gaps in the industry. They welcomed in the first wave of students this September, and are now working to give them the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in a huge range of jobs, ranging from robotics and software development to medical and automotive engineering.
The University of Leeds became the University of the Year 2017
The University of Leeds had cause for celebration this year as they took the top spot in the Good University Guide. Put together by The Times and The Sunday Times, it ranks the country’s universities according to the student experience, graduate prospects and completion rates. The University of Leeds has come second for the last two years, so it was exciting to see it at the top of the 2017 list after making serious investments into their facilities.
Northern Monk became the first English brewery to win a World Beer Cup Medal for an IPA
We all know that Northern Monk has some serious brewing skills, but now, the rest of the world knows it too, because this year, they became the first English Brewery to win a World Beer Cup Medal for an IPA. The winning beer was Eternal Session IPA – it was up against 110 other breweries in the Session Indian Pale category, but in the end, only two others finished before them.
The Majestic is getting a major overhaul
It’s been a long time coming, but The Majestic will finally get its day in the sun. The owners, Rushbond, announced plans for an ambitious overhaul earlier earlier this year, which will see the Grade II listed building acting as an elaborate facade for a modern glass structure that will rise out of the original, with 6 storeys creating space for offices above and leisure units below. It’s not the open, public space that we’d hoped for, but it will help to reinvigorate City Square, creating a much more attractive welcome for commuters.
The old Yorkshire Post is set to become an 18 storey residential development
They knocked down the building (leaving that eyesore of a tower) and created a carpark in its place, but now it seems the old Yorkshire Post site is set to become apartments, as its been bought by residential landlords Grainger plc for £40 million. Expected to be completed by 2019, the 18 storey development will boast 242 city centre flats, alongside 3,600 square foot of amenities, 3,277 square foot of commercial space and 72 parking spaces.
There are plans for a new city centre school on the waterfront
School places are stretched thin in Leeds, so news that the unused offices at No 1 The Embankment could soon be transformed into a secondary school are likely to be popular. The building, which is just 5 minutes from Leeds Train Station, has been empty since KPMG moved into their new offices on Sovereign Square – but Cushman & Wakefield have now submitted an application on behalf of Education Funding Agency (EFA) to turn it into a school that could hold up to 600 kids between 11-18.
Granary Wharf is getting a £55 million development
The southern entrance to Leeds Train Station has opened and now Granary Wharf is set to get another big investment, as plans for a £55 million project have now been approved. They’ll see three buildings erected around the Italianate towers of Tower Works on Water Lane, with 250 one, two and three bed apartments, alongside 9,000 square foot of office and leisure space.
Leeds became the fourth most attractive city outside London for inward investment
Believe it or not, Leeds is one of the most attractive cities in the UK for foreign investment. It’s a fact that’s been recognised not once, but twice over the last year, as the EY Attractiveness Survey 2016 placed us second in their table of core cities, while the The Business Location Index ranked us as the fourth most attractive city outside of London for inward investment.
We voted in but the UK voted out
There’s no way you missed this one. On 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. It was a close vote in Leeds – remain won it by a fraction, with 50.3% voting in and 49.7% voting out. We’re yet to know what repercussions this will have on inward investment and our cultural aspirations.
And we almost lost Burberry because of it
One of the most exciting developments in the last year has to be Burberry’s decision to move their manufacturing hub from Castleford to Leeds, with a £50 million investment in a new facility in the South Bank, to be followed by the long-awaited regeneration of Temple Works. But what you might not know is that when Brexit was announced, they had cold feet – for a while it looked like they were going to pull the project, but in the end they decided to stick with it, although they are likely to revise the original timeline.
But we’re still going for European Capital of Culture
Our European Capital of Culture bid is now in jeopardy for the simple reason that we don’t know when we’ll leave or what kind of deal we’ll make when we do. But we’re not giving up – the city is continuing with its application regardless, citing the fact that non-EU member states like Iceland and Norway have hosted the title in previous years.
Leeds Art Gallery closed for essential repairs
Don’t worry, it’s not forever. The roof of Leeds Art Gallery was in desperate need of repairs, and so earlier this year, they made the difficult decision to shut up shop. It’s no easy fix, so the gallery will be closed until autumn 2017, with the art inside packed up and protected, or lent out to nearby cultural institutions, so the public won’t miss out.
Leeds Town Hall is set to get a £10.5 million renovation
Leeds Art Gallery isn’t the only landmark in need of roof repairs. The Town Hall will soon follow suit, with a £10.5 million renovation that will see essential repairs to the roof, along with major refurbishments that include creating an Assembly Room in the Civil Courtroom, revealing a hidden gallery between the ceiling and the upper floor to create a space that can hold up to 300 people. The aim is to create more ways for the venue to make money, so they’ll be able to cover their own upkeep in the future, but for now, £3 million will come from the council, with £3 million of borrowing and £4.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The city got a new railway station at Kirkstall Forge
Everyone knows that Leeds Train Station has a new entrance, but what you might not know is that the city also has a new train station. Kirkstall Forge opened in June, and will take passengers from Leeds to Bradford Forster Square and Ilkley. The new station is the first on the site since 1905, and boasts 129 car parking spaces, secure cycle parking, a pick-up and drop-off point and fully-accessible platforms with staircases and ramps.
Roundhay Park hosted its first big music festival in a decade
It was one of the biggest events of the year, as Primal Scream, James, Max Jury and more took over Roundhay Park for a long day of live music, served up alongside street food and family entertainment – but the fun on the day wasn’t the only thing that made the event special, because this was the first major musical festival to take place at Roundhay Park for 10 years. Hopefully it won’t be the last.
The ITU World Triathlon Series came to Leeds for the first time
Not only was Leeds the first city outside London to host the ITU World Triathlon Series, but our homegrown athletes came out in force to show the world how it’s done – and so did the people, with thousands of spectators taking to the streets to show their support. It was an incredible day that ended with Vicky Holland taking third place in the women’s race, and the Brownlee Brothers taking first and second in the men’s. In fact, it was so successful that another event has already been confirmed for next year.
Leeds Digital Festival launched its inaugural event
The city’s digital and tech sector is booming – and what better way to celebrate it than by creating an event that showcases the best and the brightest, while giving people a chance to network, learn new skills and generally have a ruddy good time? That’s exactly what Leeds Digital Festival does. It launched earlier this year with 56 events at 28 venues – and 6,000 people attended. Needless to say, they’re already planning their next event.
We also got a ground-breaking new digital hub
Futurelabs is a not-for-profit co-working space for tech businesses. You can hot desk, take on a fixed desk or choose from their larger office spaces, all of which come with superfast broadband, free tea and coffee, 24 hour access, and of course, great company. The digital hub, which was funded by a £3.7 million government investment, is designed to encourage and support start-ups, and already has a host of new tenants, including DotForge, Herd and The Social Media Geek.
And two new city centre parks
For years, we’ve been talking about the need for new green spaces in the city centre – and now we have not one, but two. That’s right, Tower Square opened earlier this year at Wellington Place, offering up a beautiful outdoor park complete with free wifi and one heck of the view, with the iconic lifting tower at its heart – and that’s now accompanied by Sovereign Square, which promises a beautifully landscaped space filled with greenery and water features.
There’s a new super casino on the way
Although Victoria Gate has now opened, there’s one new addition to the area that’s still in the pipeline, as plans were announced earlier this year for a new £150 million super casino. At 50,000 square foot, it will be the biggest casino in the North, and once open, it will be home to one of the biggest poker rooms in the country, as well as 24 gaming tables, 140 slot machines and 80 electronic table games.
Roundhay Park could soon have a Go Ape tree top adventure centre
Plans have gone in front of Senior Councillors this week for a host of improvements at the city’s top attractions, and the most exciting of them all is a potential addition to Roundhay Park. It could soon be home to a Go Ape tree top adventure centre, giving locals the chance to take on zip wires, swings and obstacles, all in one of their favourite parks. Don’t worry, they’re going to do a full investigation ahead of approval, to ensure it doesn’t have a negative impact on the local wildlife or the public.
We’re getting a tipi bar instead of the German Market Beer Hall
2016 will be our first year without the famed beer hall at the German Market, but we won’t be without unique places to drink, because there’s a Viking-themed pop-up bar coming to Victoria Gardens. Thor’s Tipi Bar will arrive on Friday 18th November, taking us all the way through to Saturday 31st December 2016 (not Christmas Day, mind you), so you can enjoy local draught ale, mulled wine and hot cider served beside their warming fires.
And the UK’s biggest lantern festival is coming to Leeds
The Magical Lantern Festival launched in London last year and it was a roaring success, welcoming 110,000 people to the event and bagging more than a few award nominations along the way. Now it’s coming to Roundhay Park, taking over 10 acres of greenery with a trail of huge lantern installations, some of which are up to 20 metres high.
Finally, this Leeds bridge is being painted in the rainbow colours of the Freedom Flag
We love this. The railway bridge that crosses over Lower Briggate is currently undergoing essential repairs – don’t worry, it won’t impact your journey, but it will brighten up the area, as they’re going to give it a fresh coat of paint while they’re there. In fact, they’re going to paint it in the rainbow colours of the Freedom Flag to celebrate the city’s diversity.