Ten years on, refurbishment work to go ahead at landmark

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A YORKSHIRE developer has acquired a landmark building in the centre of Leeds to finish an extensive refurbishment programme originally started more than 10 years ago.

Leeds-based Rushbond Group bought Crispin House, on the corner of North Street and New York Road, for an undisclosed sum, from administrators and has appointed a contractor to carry out more than £5m of work to transform it into 82 apartments with a gym and a retail unit.

The building, originally a textile factory, was bought in the late 1990s with the intention of converting it into loft-style apartments. Plans later changed to create a luxury hotel, which was due to open in 2011. However, City Retreats Group, the company behind the development, went into administration in 2009.

Rushbond has appointed Wakefield-based GB Building Solutions to refurbish the Grade II listed building which will be known as Crispin Lofts.

Jonathan Maud, managing director of Rushbond, said the company had been in negotiations to buy the building for about two years.

He said: “Crispin Lofts is a stunning building that is full of character and enjoys far-reaching views so it offers the potential to create something very special that will be unlike anything Leeds has seen before. The northern quarter has a really vibrant community and the variety of true loft living space makes for a unique and wonderful place to call home.

“Even though previous developers have already done a lot of structural work and some internal work on the building there’s still a lot to do in order to meet the specification and standard that Rushbond is renowned for so we were keen to start work as soon as possible and we expect the first apartments to be ready in May 2012.”

He added: “The scheme that was originally started was a loft apartment scheme designed before the buy-to-let market was invented. The design was for people’s homes, rather than buy-to-let, based upon a proper New York loft scheme with large spaces. We want to retain this building as an investment and offer longer term apartments to let.

“I love the architecture. It’s a great example of a Manhattan clothing factory, which it was based on, and the natural light is fantastic.”

The building sits opposite the Leeds Arena site and across the road from the proposed Marks and Spencer store, which will form part of the Eastgate Quarters retail scheme.

Kevin Grady, director of Leeds Civic Trust, said: “Crispin House has played a major role in the history of the city. First it was Heatona House built in 1915 for Henry Heaton’s Clothing Company and then in 1979 it became HW Poole & Sons boot and shoe manufacturers.

“Both companies had illustrious histories dating from the 19th century and even today people in Leeds still talk about them and know people who worked there.

“In recent years it has been sad to see this tremendous building sat in a partly developed state. Leeds Civic Trust is absolutely delighted that Rushbond has acquired yet another key city landmark and is now returning it to its former glory with a viable use that will safeguard its future.”

Rushbond has stepped up its development activity recently after buying the former Majestyk nightclub in Leeds city centre in 2010. It is currently renovating the building into a basement music venue with bars and restaurant above. It is due to be completed by next Easter.

Work will include windows to let natural light into the building. The flat roof will be paved and used as a terrace. The canopy over the main entrance will be replaced.

The building most recently operated as the Majestyk nightclub until its closure in 2006. It has stood empty ever since and was acquired by Rushbond.

It originally opened in the 1920s as a 2,400-seat cinema, with a basement restaurant. The cinema closed in 1969 and became a bingo hall, which eventually closed and made way for Majestyk.

Mr Maud said the building had had “fantastic interest” from some national leisure operators but nobody had yet signed up to move in.

Working from head to toe

Crispin House was constructed in 1915 for Heaton’s Clothing Company, which made clothes for the Army and Navy.

By 1926, the company had 1,000 employees. In 1979 it became HW Poole & Sons boot and shoe manufacturers, which specialised in making orthopaedic shoes. After the company closed in 1997, the casts for hundreds of feet were found inside the building.