After over five years of waiting, Leeds may finally see the City One development brought to fruition thanks to a major change in ownership.
Despite the commendable regeneration work that’s already been completed in areas such as the Holbeck Urban Village, there’s a citywide desire to see the space below the River Aire brought up to date and put back into use. And now it looks like one of the city’s forgotten projects will rise from the ashes like a Phoenix, after years of coming and going.
The Leeds Arena That Could’ve Been
Before Leeds got First Direct Arena, there were plans put in place for the new entertainment venue to be built south of the river, in an area of the city that was set to be transformed by Montpellier Estates as part of a project known as City One.
Alongside the arena proposals, which only formed one part of the scheme, planning permission had been granted for a number of buildings on the £500 million Sweet Street site in Holbeck. Those included one million square feet of offices, a 230 bed hotel, a 25 storey residential complex and a 100,000 square foot casino complex.
However, Leeds City Council took control of the development of the Arena themselves at the end of 2008, plumping for the site where the First Direct Arena now stands on Claypit Lane.
As a result, Montpellier and the authorities became entangled in legal battles including a £43.5 million High Court claim against Leeds City Council, which the council ultimately won, costing City One’s owners a cool £2 million in legal costs.
So Where Did It All Go Wrong?
The site’s future has hung in the balance for a number of years and become something of an elephant in the room as far as developments in Leeds go. The company, spearheaded by Chairwoman Jan Fletcher who gained notoriety throughout the proceedings, struggled through winding up orders and receivership, and it became obvious that City One wasn’t a project moving anywhere fast.
Six years on from that debacle, it seems that that may be an understatement. The area south of the river is still in need of focused and constructive planning to bring together its intrinsic industrial heritage with the city centre to its north is moving faster than ever before.
A Multi-Million Pound Takeover
Thankfully, it seems as though we’re finally about to see movement on City One, and not before time. The site has recently been put out for tender and one company with significant ties to Leeds has been successful with a bid believed to be around £10 million, which would be the largest sum ever paid for a single development in the city.
Regardless of the money, the most important thing is that Caddick Developments seem committed to fulfilling the potential of a key site in the city, which, if the other plans for Leeds’ south side come to fruition, could come play a key role in Leeds’ future.
With this vital project representing a vast part of the gateway to the city, measuring around two million square foot in total, it’s not just a chance for City One to finally find a way of making good on its initial promise. Caddick also continue to make another massive statement of their intent to help cities such as Leeds in their development, with this coming on the back of their work at Trinity Leeds, Rose Wharf and Carnegie Stadium.
Refining the Plans for Leeds
With planning approval already in place for the mixed use complex as listed above, the group are currently going through a process of refining those plans and bringing them up to date with their objectives and those of the city.
As a result, one of the aspects of City One that could be swapped is the leisure use, in particular that of the casino which looks as though it will be replaced by another residential block, going some way to meet the demand in the city and proving that the south can work on both a corporate and social level.
While nothing can guarantee City One’s success, Caddick are in a strong position, not only with their background in successful projects in Leeds and Yorkshire, but also in the fact that the scheme finds itself with enviable transport links, sitting adjacent to the M621 and Leeds Ring Road, making it as, if not more investable, as any development in the city.
Should they bring the previous proposals up to date and inline with the city Leeds has become over the past decade, City One could well be the proof that ‘good things come to those who wait’.