Is the much-anticipated Eastgate retail development in Leeds now going to be carried out in two phases?
A plan posted on Leeds City Council’s website* (in support of an application to host the city’s future large casino) appears to confirm what has previously only been rumoured – that the £600m development won’t be started all at once.
Drawn up for developers Hammerson in December last year, the plan indicates that “phase 1” of the development will only involve the land due south of Eastgate (the road) and will include a department store (John Lewis permitting) plus a mix of retail, restaurants and bars, and a large casino (licence permitting).
That would leave the development of all the land north of Eastgate – including the site of a proposed major new M&S – for a second phase.
I’m no expert on trends in retail, but there are a couple of obvious factors that make phasing sound like an attractive option: there’s no clear end in sight to the current recession and there’s a major retail development opening next year in the city courtesy of Land Securities’ Trinity Leeds.
Unless Hammerson are totally confident they can get sufficient numbers of pre-lets for the whole 1m sq ft development at Eastgate, it makes sense to start with a relatively risk-free package around the John Lewis store.
…the last we heard Leeds City Council hadn’t yet got a final pledge from John Lewis that they’re up for it.
John Lewis – questions still outstanding?
Back in March Leeds City Council agreed to amend the terms of its agreement with developer Hammerson in order to help secure the John Lewis anchor store. The aim was to smooth the way to getting approval from the boards of Hammerson and John Lewis so the store could be trading by 2016.
Since then we’ve had the announcement that a major John Lewis store will definitely be opening in nearby York (probably as soon as Autumn 2013) . But there’s been no word on whether the Leeds store has got approval from the John Lewis board. What could be holding it up ?
Well, when he was in Leeds last November, John Lewis managing director Andy Street made it clear that there were several outstanding questions that needed to be sorted out by the council before the Eastgate scheme became viable, among them the “compulsory purchase of land”, car parking, bus diversions and “public realm” issues.
Where’s the shiny new car park going?
With the construction of “phase 1” there would be a net loss of car parking spaces (the “phase 1” site is effectively a 300-capacity car park), as well as a substantial increase in demand for parking from the John Lewis store and the casino.
There has to be a shiny new car park (John Lewis aren’t going to be happy with a bit of rough ground) , but where is it going to go?
Millgarth police station? Even though it’s currently not part of the proposed development, it could always be brought back in, vacated and demolished in the second half of 2014 (presuming the new police HQ at Elland Rd gets built on schedule).
Which would give plenty of time to build a car park there before 2016 – though it wouldn’t be straightforward given that the Lady Beck runs through the land.
Where else might a car park go? The outdoor part of Kirkgate market would be handy as it’s just next door. There’s always the possibility that the current consultation on Kirkgate’s future might magically suggest that a car-park sized chunk of land was surplus to requirements for a downsized market. But that would be a political hot potato.
Land, what land?
As far as the John Lewis question over the “compulsory purchase of land” is concerned, all may well become clearer (or not) in the middle of July when a report on “land assembly proposals for the Eastgate Development” goes to the council’s executive board.
And then there’s the question of “public realm” – that’s open air stuff like plazas, streets, parks and squares to you and me. Looking at the phased plan, there’s not a great deal of room in “phase 1” for any “public realm” of much significance.
Question mark over phase two?
Starting with M&S, who are scheduled to be anchoring the northern (“phase 2”) part of the site with a major new store – to add to the 155,000 sq ft shop they’ll have as anchor to Land Securities’ Trinity Leeds development.
Can M&S have done their sums right? Can they be sure there’s going to be the appetite and the cash in Leeds in the next 10 years to support both?
Not to mention those other retailers who are now committed to the Trinity development.
Here’s what commercial property experts CBRE had to say about Eastgate as recently as January 2012:
“Hammerson are continuing to appraise the viability of building Eastgate Quarter … It is unclear whether this scheme will consist of two phases with a John Lewis phase coming first and the M&S phase following as phase two.
“What is clear, however, is that whilst there is a question mark over this scheme being built retailers continue to remain unclear as to whether they would now look to trade two stores from the city rather than one, as many have already committed themselves to Trinity.”
Watch this space.
* thanks to @Khopea for pointing me towards the document