Historic civic buildings in Leeds to become £62m student accommodation scheme

Councillors have given the go-ahead to turn Grade II listed former council-owned buildings into a £62m student accommodation scheme.

McLaren Property intends to repurpose the Leonard Printworks, the Leonardo building and Thoresby House.
McLaren Property intends to repurpose the Leonard Printworks, the Leonardo building and Thoresby House.

McLaren Property intends to repurpose the Leonardo Printworks, the Leonardo building and Thoresby House in the Civic Quarter of Leeds city centre, as well as build new accommodation on the former car park site.

The buildings had been variously used as schools, printworks, a teaching college and most recently as council offices.

The new 473-bed student accommodation will be within 10 minutes’ walk of The University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett and Leeds Teaching Hospital.

McLaren Property, architects Cartwright Pickard and heritage consultant ID Planning worked closely with Leeds City Council to revisit previous commercial proposals for the site and to improve the retention of historic features.

Leonardo Printworks and Thoresby House are Grade II listed Victorian buildings.

McLaren said that repurposing of the listed elements as well as re-use of the modern building structure substantially reduces the embodied carbon of the new development. Operational carbon emissions are minimised through connection to the city council’s low-carbon district heating system, as well as through a thermally efficient fabric and the use of rooftop photovoltaic panels.

McLaren Property’s regional managing director, Tom Gilman, said: “There was a great meeting of minds on this project, especially given the complexity of the listed buildings and that it is McLaren’s first student project in Leeds.

“From a standing start in December when we first began looking at the site it has taken just seven months to get to a minded to grant in July.

“McLaren as a business has invested significantly in Leeds and recognises the huge opportunities in the city. We are excited about continuing to work with the council on planned commercial and build-to-rent projects on Wellington Street.”

Martin Farrington, Leeds City Council’s director of city development, added: “It is really positive to see McLaren Property’s sensitive reuse of the council’s Leonardo and Thoresby buildings as new accommodation for students.”

Construction is due to start in August 2021 and to complete by August 2023 in time for the 2023/2024 academic year.

The Leonardo Building dates back to 1900, when it was opened as a printworks. It was extended in the late 1990s and was used by Leeds City Council’s housing department.

Ide Real Estate announced in December 2018 it wanted to create flexible office, hotel and living space. The plans were approved in April 2019, but no work was started.

A Leeds City Council document from January 2020 warned that the sale of the Leonardo building in Leeds city centre was “not proceeding as anticipated”.