LAND Securities reported strong demand for space at its city centre Trinity Leeds development, with 57 per cent of the £350m landmark development now let to retailers, up from 47 per cent in November.
Trinity Leeds, which will open in Spring 2013, has let 45 per cent of the space and another 12 per cent is in solicitors' hands. A further eight per cent is at an advanced stage of negotiations, which means the scheme is on the way to being 65 per cent let.
Land Securities said this represented a very high level of retailer commitment to the site more than two years ahead of completion.
Gerald Jennings, the company's Leeds-based portfolio director, said: "We have given retailers confidence that Land Securities will deliver what we said we'd deliver. Retailers, who know we're on site, want bigger and better space in the centre of Leeds."
He added that while 2011 will have its ups and downs, the retail sector will be in a much better position by the time Trinity Leeds opens in 2013.
The group said it is well on the way to completing the demolition of Provincial House on Albion Street.
It has just started demolition of the Bridge Link that spans Albion Street, which will be replaced by a new glass structure that Mr Jennings said would "rejuvenate and revitalise" the area.
"The rate of progress has been breathtaking since Laing O'Rourke returned to site in early August," said Mr Jennings.
"Over the past quarter, while the workers have been putting the steelwork in place and preparing for the revitalisation of Albion Street, our leasing team has continued to build a line-up of international and national retailers and leisure operators."
Elsewhere, the group said that its flagship White Rose scheme in south Leeds had a very strong Christmas. Footfall over the Christmas and New Year fortnight was up nearly four per cent, compared with the same fortnight last year. Some 686,688 customers braved the snow to shop at the centre during the two weeks.
Mr Jennings said that the management team at White Rose had made a huge effort to keep access roads clear and there was only one afternoon when shops had to close and the staff were sent home.
Analysts believe that large out-of-town shopping centres benefited from the snow as shoppers opted to make one trip to buy all their purchases rather than trudge up and down the high street.
During December White Rose attracted almost 1.5 million visitors and achieved several footfall records. On Boxing Day the centre had its busiest hour since opening in March 1997, when 8,700 shoppers came through its doors between 11am and noon.
"Some 67,616 – more than twice the average attendance at Elland Road – came to shop on December 27," said Mr Jennings. "In spite of gloomy predictions for the retail sector and with severe weather affecting footfall at the start of December, White Rose continues to prosper."
Footfall for the last financial year was in excess of 13 million, an increase of almost 1.5 per cent on the 2008-09 financial year.
The centre, which has more than 100 retailers and employs over 2,000 people, is adding two new retailers over the coming months, clothing chain H&M and high fashion chain Lipsey.
Leeds City Council has given the go-ahead for a 40,000 sq ft expansion at White Rose, which will cost between 5m and 10m to construct. "When retailers heard about the expansion they phoned us to ask if they could take the space," said Mr Jennings. "We know we can let it."
In a trading update yesterday Land Securities said it will focus its efforts on developing new projects, which it expects to produce better returns than acquisitions as the commercial property market recovers.
The company, which in November posted a 6.7 per cent rise in first-half net asset value, is betting on private sector growth to fill space in its new projects, weaning itself from reliance on the public sector as job cuts bite.
Land Securities' shares closed down 0.6 per cent at 694.5p.
D&D to dine out at complex
Trinity Leeds has signed up international restaurant operator D&D London, which will open two roof-top restaurants designed by Sir Terence Conran.
Diners will access the venues, a modern French restaurant and an English bar and grill, via an external glass lift offering views over the Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church.
Gerald Jennings, the company's Leeds-based portfolio director, said: "Their arrival puts Leeds on the international map, alongside London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Copenhagen, as cities around the world where D&D wants to be."