City’s cen­tre of at­trac­tion looks strong thanks to faith and vi­sion

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Jonathan Mor­gan

FOR more than two decades, I have wit­nessed dra­matic change in Leeds City Cen­tre. At the launch of one of the city cen­tre’s ear­li­est res­i­den­tial schemes, at 32 The Calls, the then Lady Mayor fa­mously said to me, as she cut the rib­bon, “I was born in Hun­slet and it’s be­yond me why any­one would want to live by this smelly canal.” “Thank you so much for com­ing along this evening,” I said po­litely.

Vi­sion is a pow­er­ful and es­sen­tial force in new mar­kets and in spite of a mas­sive down­turn in the res­i­den­tial mar­ket, per­haps felt most sharply in the city cen­tre mar­ket, where buy to let pur­chasers have tended to lead the way, there are now around 14,000 peo­ple liv­ing in “down­town” Leeds; so suc­cess­ful is the mar­ket that around 99 per cent of all apart­ments are cur­rently oc­cu­pied. City Liv­ing 1: Mayor 0.

The huge surge in res­i­den­tial de­mand which fol­lowed the tragic events of 2001 has been a ma­jor force in driv­ing for­ward new sup­ply and with lit­tle chance of a fur­ther boom on this scale, and a likely ab­sence of spec­u­la­tors, it will fall much more to the craft and guile of a new breed of de­vel­op­ers and place mak­ers to in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of city liv­ing. Gone will be the huge, sin­gle phase schemes of faux ter­ra­cotta and cur­tain walling, poorly con­ceived and ill-main­tained pub­lic spa­ces and hol­low prom­ises to dis­tant in­vestors.

Along in­stead will come smaller schemes, well-con­ceived, de­signed from the in­side in to pro­vide homes which are truly live­able. Sep­a­rate kitchens with util­ity ar­eas, am­ple stor­age, slightly more gen­er­ous floor to ceil­ing heights and plenty of glaz­ing (more ex­pen­sive than brick, we know, but in­fin­itely more at­trac­tive).

At­ten­tion will turn to gen­uine sus­tain­abil­ity. See what CITU are do­ing at Lit­tle Kel­ham in Sh­effield (see main story be­low) and would love to do in Leeds, and ac­coun­tants will be much more tuned in the down­side than they were through the last boom, largely be­cause there was no down­side, right up un­til the very top of the boom curve.

Lenders will re­main cau­tious and will be most gen­er­ous in their lend­ing on ei­ther those schemes which have best stood the test of time, or new schemes which clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from the mar­ket through de­sign, spec­i­fi­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion and amenity- this is the trend which pre­vails in more ma­ture city cen­tres and this is what we ex­pect to see in Leeds.

New build­ings will be few and far be­tween in the next few years but it seems in­evitable that medium den­sity ur­ban hous­ing will be a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor. In Leeds, this could mean high qual­ity hous­ing schemes in lo­ca­tions such as Welling­ton Place and on the edges of Clarence Dock, with per­haps more af­ford­able hous­ing spring­ing up in the Kirk­stall Road cor­ri­dor and East Bank.

In or­der to en­sure that the city cen­tre is able to at­tract and hold young oc­cu­pies be­yond the flush of early city liv­ing and per­haps into par­ent­hood, then we will need to en­sure that ed­u­ca­tion and child care is well pro­vided for and that there are plenty of green and /or open spa­ces where fam­i­lies can play and re­lax.

City cen­tre green space has been a talk­ing point for years and there is a gen­eral ac­cep­tance that we need to do more to cre­ate ei­ther green or well land­scaped ar­eas in the heart of the city to af­ford both work­ers and res­i­dents a proper “breather”. The blue­print for a suc­cess­ful and bal­anced city cen­tre where liv­ing and work­ing co-ex­ist happily and healthily is much dis­cussed and Leeds has a real op­por­tu­nity to de­velop and grow in its own unique way- it is largely low rise, ex­ten­sively pedes­tri­anised, em­i­nently walk­a­ble and rich in her­itage-on its outer edges, swathes of khaki land sit unused and ready for men and women of vi­sion to de­liver for the next gen­er­a­tion.

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