Construction News , Leeds 26 August 2021

Plans revealed for economy-boosting Events Venue and purpose-built student accommodation in the Heart of Leeds

By Sophie Anderson

  • Events facility would complement First Direct Arena and could contribute up to £13.5 million of Gross Value Add (GVA) to the local economy every year
  • Two new buildings will address the need for high-quality student housing in the city
  • Public consultation to run between 30th August and 10th September

Plans to create a brand-new multi-purpose events venue alongside high-quality student accommodation in the heart of Leeds’ cultural district have been revealed by developer Downing and Leeds City Council.

The proposed mixed-use development would transform two plots of land adjacent to the Leeds First Direct Arena in the city centre, including the site of the soon to be vacated Yorkshire Bank HQ.

In autumn, Downing will submit a detailed planning application for two purpose-built student accommodation buildings on Merrion Way and Clay Pit Lane, of 38 and 17-storeys respectively. Alongside this it will also seek outline planning consent for a new multi-purpose events space, the development of which would be taken forward by Leeds City Council at a later date.

If approved, the plans will pave the way for the creation of a 9,940 square metre facility at the centre of the Leeds Arena Quarter, designed to attract additional corporate, cultural and live events to the city and provide Leeds’ residents with an exciting new amenity.

Based on projections for similar-sized events facilities, it is estimated that a new multi-purpose events space in Leeds could contribute up to £13.5 million of Gross Value Add (GVA) to the local economy every year.

As well as comprising up to 2,000 square metres of floor event space, the new venue will include an 800-900 capacity auditorium. The facility will be able to host popular gigs and shows that require a more intimate space than is offered by the First Direct Arena, but larger capacities than other venues in Leeds, filling a gap in the city’s existing events provision. With a range of different spaces potentially available within the venue, it would also provide opportunities for local community led activities and events.

The proposed student accommodation scheme will address the need for high-quality student housing in the city. Leeds has one of the largest student populations in the UK and, as a result, there is constant demand for student accommodation.

The proposed accommodation will offer 1,200 student bedrooms, including a mixture of 5 and 6 bed cluster flats with shared living/dining spaces and individual studio units, along with a range of accessible bedrooms. The sustainable development will incorporate photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps.

Each element of the plan promises to regenerate unused space in part of the city that will benefit economically from additional footfall. The proposals also have the potential to create approximately 390 jobs in the construction phase and 45 full-time operational roles across the student accommodation and multi-purpose events facility, with the potential for this to rise to up to 200 part-time hospitality positions for large scale events.

Downing has launched a public consultation on the plans which will run between 30th August and 10th September. The public are being invited to view the plans and submit their feedback by visiting a dedicated website https://downingconsultation.com/ or attending a drop-in exhibition at the First Direct Arena on 1st September between 3pm and 7pm.

George Tyson, Projects Director at Downing, said: “It has long been recognised that Leeds is in need of an additional, flexible events space capable of hosting corporate banqueting, awards ceremonies and live entertainment. With 2,000 square metre flat floor space, this scheme has the potential to host conferences and exhibitions which can’t be facilitated at the Arena or other venues in the city centre, allowing Leeds to secure business that may otherwise be lost to other cities and regions.

“The proposed new venue would enrich the city’s events capacity, bringing Leeds in line with other core UK cities and provide a significant boost to the visitor economy, driving business tourism which is currently worth over £500 million to the city.

“Attracting and retaining graduate talent is vital to the health of the regional economy and this relies on being able to offer attractive student accommodation. Our proposals will provide students with brand new, first-class living space in a dynamic part of the city, with fast access to university buildings and facilities. The project will support hundreds of construction jobs in the area, as well as providing new opportunities for the local supply-chain.

“Having delivered a number of highly successful developments in Leeds, we are heavily invested in place-making that adds vibrancy and amenity to the city. We are very pleased to be able to share our plans with the Leeds community to benefit from their input, prior to submitting the planning applications.”

The proposals are the latest in a long line of successful developments delivered by Downing in Leeds, including Leeds Central Village, the award-winning Broadcasting Place and the Leeds Beckett School of Arts.

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