Tony O’Brien: What Wellington Place means for Leeds

How do you build on a well established and successful city core? How do you expand or indeed create a new city core that will be authentic and be accepted by the city itself? As architects on Wellington Place, we have worked closely with the developer MEPC and the city council on the masterplan to ensure the scheme fits into the city environment, not just now but in ten, 20 or even 50 years’ time.

The success of Wellington Place in attracting a variety of tenants from blue chip companies to a significant commitment from the Government Property Unit (GPU), has meant the site will now become home to a variety of consolidated government agencies and departments.

The arrival of these organisations will of course create hundreds of new public and private sector jobs which, in turn, will facilitate the demand and development of neighbouring residential sites.

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None of this would have been possible without the support of Leeds City Council who have worked closely with us ensure that every building has purpose and relevance to the overall city landscape. MEPC has put together a proactive, dedicated and forward-thinking team which has absolute faith in delivering the vision.

Wellington Place has the flexibility to enable larger size floor plates and that has been a game changer, enabling us to secure pre-let anchor tenants which are crucial to make the scheme viable.

The site has evolved over time in line with changing design and tenants’ requirements. To support this evolution we have worked with MEPC to a create an evolved masterplan that offers more robust and flexible building plots and future proofs the site for subsequent stages of develop-ment. From the outset, the creation of high-quality public realm and enabling pedestrian movement within the masterplan was key. The success of Wellington Place is its ability to be in a city yet still feel almost tranquil. You only have to refer to that Sunday Times article to really understand what people want from a city and see that we are already ahead of the game in delivering many of those elements here in Leeds.

MEPC’s approach to the masterplan for Wellington Place is inspiring; they are in it for the long term, it’s all about creating connected neighbourhoods which are relevant now and for future generations. Alongside the offices and retail buildings, a key driver for these developments is ensuring that the public spaces are the best they can be.

At Wellington Place the final masterplan will not include any surface parking, instead there will be open areas where people can dwell and interact.

It is important that the design of a scheme evolves and changes over time and that is done in consultation with the local authority.

That close relationship between the public and private sector means that things can be changed and delivered as planned.

In the case of Wellington Place, MEPC mapped out a 20-year development period and now, 10 years in over half has been delivered. What’s more, even during periods of little development activity MEPC has still invested into developing the public realm and that foresight is certainly paying off at Wellington Place.