Name change as forgotten area moves to cool bohemian future

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UP to 1,000 jobs could be created as part of a masterplan to revive Clarence Dock in Leeds by turning it into a hub for “emerging industries”, it was revealed yesterday.

If the plans are approved by Leeds City Council, the dock will have a water village, new landmark buildings, a green space and a workspace hub by 2014. There will also be public space which could be used for concerts, comedy performances, theatre and art displays. As part of the planned revamp, the area will revert to its historic name of New Dock.

“Think bohemian, think Amsterdam, think cool,” said Michael Ingall, the chief executive of property developer Allied London. “I’m convinced we can bring new operators to Leeds by using our assets in a careful way.”

In January, Clarence Dock was bought by Allied London, which is probably best known for developing Manchester’s Spinningfields district.

It is understood the company paid around £1.5m for the lease on Clarence Dock, which has struggled to attract retailers since it opened four years ago.

The 150-year head lease on the 1.2m sq ft scheme was bought from its previous owners, Lend Lease.

Yesterday, Allied London revealed its detailed plans for the area at a Press briefing.

Mr Ingall said: “We did think very hard about whether we should change the name, and I think, on balance we’ve done the right thing. If you walk around here and see the steel covers they all have ‘New Dock’ on them.”

The area was known as the New Dock when it opened in 1843. It kept this title until it closed in 1990.

“There’s a history there and a reason for changing the name,’’ said Mr Ingall.

“We are implementing a sustainable master plan which gives people several different reasons to come here.

“I’m talking about a place that becomes a community in its own right and develops its own eco-structure.

“I estimate that between 500 to 1,000 new people will be working here, plus people working in restaurants, leisure and hospitality. The green space and the public realm is very important.

“We want to be starting on site by June 2013 and are due to launch in summer 2014.

“We’ve had a very positive response from local people to these plans.”

According to Mr Ingall, the masterplan is designed to meet the needs of the local community and is in keeping with the spirit of the original plans for Clarence Dock.

Mr Ingall said Clarence Dock had become isolated due to inappropriate uses and “the site’s inability to communicate with the immediate and surrounding communities. We also intend to build on the existing attractions,’’ he added.

Clarence Dock was officially opened on October 11, 2008. Three years later, virtually all of the shops had gone, and the remaining businesses were struggling to find customers.

Recent departures have included the Aspecto clothes store, which closed down and moved to Leeds city centre.

In December 2011, Roy Ramm, an executive director of London Clubs International, which owns the Alea Casino on Clarence Dock, told the Yorkshire Post: “Clarence Dock feels like a forgotten part of the city at the moment. The only thing that’s missing here is the tumbleweed.”

The masterplan devised by Allied London is made up of components, which, the company claims, will create a “unique, animated destination”. It will have a shopping, food and cafe street, a restaurant boardwalk, and “attractive squares and inviting, safe spaces”.

The workspace hub would offer “bright, waterfront space to think, network and innovate’’, Mr Ingall said.

He added: “One month ago, for the Leeds Waterfront Festival, we had thousands of people here. Everyone was enjoying the activities on offer. Part of the challenge for this estate is creating a sustainable community which injects much needed spirit and vibrancy into this important part of Leeds.”

Mr Ingall said he saw the dock as the easterly anchor for the new Leeds south bank.

Mr Ingall said he might consider holding a competition for public art works, which would line the routes to the dock.

He added: “We’re open to everyone’s ideas, even if they are whacky and off-piste.

“New Dock will energise the Leeds south bank and give the city back the waterfront it deserves.

Planning applications for the site are likely to be submitted later this year.