Nearly two years after fire gutted the iconic building, there are new plans afoot for The Majestic in City Square.
It was back in September 2014 when The Majestic went up in flames, destroying much of the iconic Leeds building. Nearly two years on, plans have finally been revealed for the future of the Grade II listed structure that will hopefully see it retained as a vital part of the city for years to come.
Since all but the facade was destroyed in the fire, the building’s owners, Rushbond, have proposed a dramatic overhaul. If their plans are approved, The Majestic will become a 65,000 square foot office development, with space for leisure and cafe opportunities on the ground and lower ground floors.
What’s left of the original facade will be restored, but they’ll be creating a new 6-storey glass structure within it that reaches up and out of the original building. One of the standout design features is a a 3-storey atrium that will look up to the crown roof, giving a nod to the original design of the building.
Mark Finch, Director of Leeds based Rushbond, told us, “The Majestic is a much loved Leeds building, widely held in affection, with some great memories and nostalgic moments for so many. The fire was a truly sad and devastating episode in the building’s life and traumatic for all those involved. Our focus is now on making the building once again majestic, so that it can truly contribute to the future economic prosperity of the City, through viable and sustainable uses.”
First opened as a cinema in 1922, the Pascal Steinlet designed building was one of the original ‘super-cinemas’ that opened up during the era, with a capacity of 2,800 and stunning features to match – the fan-shaped hall and Parthenon-style frieze were sadly lost in the fire.
In 1969 it became a bingo hall before being transformed into one of the UK’s most popular clubs as the Majestyk during the 1990s, serving as a hub of Leeds’ nightlife until 2008. Soon after plans were announced for it to be turned into a casino but they were blocked by Leeds City Council. They gave way to the most recent plans to create a series of retail and leisure units, plans that were put on hold when the building was set alight.
The Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, has said of the proposed plans, “The Majestic is an iconic landmark in the very heart of Leeds and is held in affection by many people in our city, so I’m really pleased to see these exciting new plans taking shape. I welcome the collaborative approach Rushbond have taken with this project, ensuring that the views of the city have been fed into the design to retain the essential character of this much loved-building. This distinctive and high-quality development will attract international interest.”
The Majestic’s position on City Square means it has a huge role to play when it comes to welcoming people into the city as they leave Leeds City Station, and for the past two years it has not been able to fulfil that role. The new plans are an important step for Leeds, not only because it sees a building of historical and practical value brought back to life, but also because it is another landmark development that will attract further investment into the city.
That’s an opinion shared by Gerald Jennings, President at Leeds Chamber of Commerce, “I am really pleased to see the new plans for the Majestic. Its location on City Square and opposite the railway station emphasise the ability the Majestic has to help shape the public space and act as a welcome beacon for those who come to Leeds to work or visit. Significant developments like this demonstrate the ability Leeds has to attract major investment and Rushbond are to be applauded for bringing such an innovative scheme forward.”
These new plans offer something of a departure from The Majestic we all know, and if it wasn’t for the fire, it’s unlikely that there would ever have been such a dramatic overhaul of the building’s look and feel – it is grade II listed after all. What it has allowed for, however, is greater room for Rushbond to manoeuvre – and they’ve used that extra wiggle room to create a development that’s true to its past, but ultimately, designed for the future.
The one really disappointing thing, however, is that the general public have lost full access to the building. While some leisure and retail units are set to be included in the proposals, its previous lives as a cinema, bingo hall and club, meant that it was always on show to the public, giving them a chance to appreciate the building, as well as enjoying the experience within. That’s gone now, and seemingly for the foreseeable future – is that too high a price to pay for putting this iconic building back into use? Much as we’d love full access, the answer is probably no.
If all does go according to plan, once the proposals have been presented to Leeds City Council this month, full planning applications will be made in August with a view to starting work as early as the beginning of 2017. By then, it will have been over two years since The Majestic was ravaged – and the sooner it gets back in use, the better.