Having spent the last 25 years extolling the virtues of city living, it seemed only polite that my family and I should “walk the walk”.
Our dream of finding a project in the city centre came to life in 2017 after spending virtually all of our lives in the northern suburbs. As my daughters reminded me more than once, this was the only home they had ever known. Not to be deterred by such soppiness, we jumped at the chance to acquire the top floor of a warehouse on the riverside which had been used as offices for over 20 years.
Loads of windows, a double-height space with original pitch pine beams and lifting gear, southerly views from our balconies over the river with unobstructed horizon views and a generous footprint, what's not to love? And yet the question I have been asked more than any other was, wait for it... “but where are you going to park?'”
We knew when we made the commitment to our new home that we wouldn't be able to enjoy the convenience of parking in the drive because we don't have a drive. Our cars, two of them at the moment, but soon to be one (and it was three when we lived in the suburbs) are parked “off-site”. This minor inconvenience bothers us not one jot and the degree to which our cars have slipped out of our day-to -day consciousness has been a revelation. One car sat untouched for three weeks from the day we moved in and it's true to say that our cars are out of sight, out of mind. I might as well delete the Uber app from my phone as we've rediscovered public transport, including the train to Kirkstall Forge ,which I take regularly, and discovered, for the first time, the 757 “Flying Tiger” bus to the airport which we have chosen to use ahead of a cab every time. Why wouldn't you?
So, here are a few ramblings about why we already love living in the city centre.
There's a buzz in the air which we get to experience every day, rather than just when we have a city break or go to London. It's hard to describe but it's always there. Cabs. Buses. Trains. The bottle wagon. The chatter. Water birds. The planes. The occasional helicopter. The milkman- yes, we have one in the city.
We don't commute anymore. My six mile journey from North Leeds and back for all those years could take me as long as 45 minutes a day each way and longer on occasion. Now, it's a three minute walk and I love it. If I need to nip home, I can. No big deal. And I'd just about had enough of Simon Mayo and his Radio 2 drive-time show anyway.
Our horizons have changed, literally. Because we live on the North river bank at fifth floor level, our eye line is literally the horizon. We see skies, sunrises and sunsets to die for, and all sorts of funky cloud formations at first hand. The skies feel closer than they did in the suburbs somehow.
We don't need to plan our lives too carefully anymore, because everything we need is right here. The Market. The best coffee. People. The river taxi. The theatre. The river. The best food. Trains to everywhere. We wake up on a Saturday and decide what to do.
We've re-discovered the pleasure of urban walks. On a Sunday, we'll head off, sometimes without knowing where we're going. Our favourites include a six-minute train ride to Kirkstall Forge and a lovely walk back down the canal into the city centre, Headingley and back via the Ridge, which I used to use to walk to school and-this one's a bit of a busman's holiday- Granary Wharf to Holbeck Moor, New Wortley and back. The heart of the city.
We love the seamless transition from work to home. We often get invited to the theatre and historically, this has been a bit of a challenge. Do we go straight from work or go home and ditch the car, get an Uber and enjoy a glass of wine in the interval? Or, in fact, can we be bothered at all? Last Friday, we were invited to the press night of “Road”, the first show in the new pop-up theatre at the re-named Leeds Playhouse. All it took was a prompt finish at work to ensure that we had time to eat and enjoy a leisurely glass of wine before we wandered over to The Playhouse to immerse ourselves in over two and a half hours of pure theatre. And it was. We came out, as we always do, saying that we really should go to the theatre more.
And now, I think we really will.
Jonathan Morgan is Managing Director of Morgans City Living, 1 Dock Street, Leeds, www.cityliving.co.uk
*Apartment building in Leeds city centre came to a halt when the recession took hold in 2008 but activity is well underway again with a number of large-scale, innovative schemes along with smaller builds and conversions.
Moda Living is about to start on its £300m SOYO - South of York Road - scheme The first phase of the build-to-rent development will include 515 flats across two, 16-storey blocks.
Over on the south bank of the river, CITU has built a factory where it is constructing contemporary, modular homes that will populate its Climate Innovation District, which will have 530 homes.