Next month, a new shopping centre will open in Leeds, called Trinity Leeds, after almost six years of construction.
Unlike most shopping malls this isn’t an out of town development; Leeds already has one in the form of the White Rose Centre. Instead, this will take over some under-utilised land in the city centre and open out onto Briggate, a street which ranks in the top 10 busiest in the UK for pedestrian footfall. When it opens, it will have around 120 shops and will therefore add significant retail capacity to Leeds.
A trinity of shopping centres
Leeds Trinity isn’t all new. Around a third of it is the pre-existing Leeds Shopping Plaza, which used to be called the Bond Street Centre prior to its redevelopment in the 1990s. This has stayed open during the works, albeit with significant disruption.
The rest of the site consisted of two other shopping arcades. The Burton Arcade consisted of shops in the Arcadia group – Topshop, Topman, Burtons and so on. This was built in the 1970s, but demolished as part of the redevelopment with those store moving to temporary locations elsewhere in the city. The other was the Trinity Arcade; similar architecture and also built in the 1970s, but was looking very run down with low prestige shops by the time it was closed and demolished.
The new build for the shopping centre takes place on the site of the two arcades, with a bridge link to the old Leeds Shopping Plaza which has been extensively refurbished, both inside and out.
Not so much a mall
Trinity Leeds could be compared to the Eldon Square shopping centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which is one of Britain’s more successful city centre shopping malls, but it will actually have more in common with the Liverpool One development. Though there will be a roof over it, and it will be on multiple floors, the centre will actually be open to the elements and will re-open streets that have been closed off for years as thoroughfares. The hope is that it will integrate as part of the city.
Shops, new and old
46 of the shops in Trinity Leeds will be new to the city. Apple will open their first store here; until now, Leeds has only been served by resellers as Apple’s recent expansion in the UK has passed it by. Several other fashion retailers will also open, since Trinity Leeds is not too far away from the Victoria Quarter where many of the more boutique fashion shops have set up around Harvey Nichols.
Marks and Spencer will expand their existing Briggate store into the centre, adding 20% to the floorspace of what is already one of their larger stores. Meanwhile the existing BHS and Boots stores in the old Leeds Shopping Plaza will remain.
Creating a vacuum
Whilst 46 of the shops in Trinity Leeds will be new, that leaves more than half that aren’t. Obviously some of those were part of the existing Leeds Shopping Plaza but others already have shops in the city and will be moving into the new centre. Christine and I were shopping in Leeds on Saturday and a number of shops already have ‘To Let’ signs up, ready for them to relocate. This was particularly noticeable on Lands Lane, which actually meets Trinity Leeds in the middle; there, Ernest Jones, River Island and La Senza all have signs up, presumably ahead of a move. Meanwhile the former Clintons Cards shop on the same street, which was closed when the chain went into administration last year, has laid empty for some months now.
Further up on The Headrow, the huge Primark store will up sticks as well, leaving a big empty shop in its place; Next is also moving out of its prominent Albion Street store. And on Greek Street, in the city’s financial district, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carluccio’s and Wagamama decide not to keep their existing restaurants as they open up new ones a couple of streets away.
Meanwhile, The Core, which is one of Leeds’ other shopping centres further up Lands Lane, is basically empty. The only shops still open there are those that open onto the street, bar one gadget shop on the top floor which was devoid of customers. The Core used to be the much busier Schofield Centre, but a drawn-out refurbishment some years ago led to footfall dropping and now the place is basically empty. One of the flagship units has been taken over by 99p Stores – hardly the high prestige shops that the owners were hoping to attract.
And on Briggate, opposite what will be the western entrance to Trinity Leeds, the Central Arcade has recently re-opened following redevelopment, but again, with almost all of its shops empty. Of the two units with a prime location on Briggate, one is empty and the other one is a branch of Gregg’s the bakers.
It’s the economy, stupid
Despite these issues, it’s good to see major investment in a city centre, especially now. We’re approaching five years since the credit crunch kick-started the global economic meltdown, and Britain is on the verge of recession for the third time since 2008. It’s really tough for the high street right now with HMV in administration along with Blockbuster and Republic, and Jessop’s has been wound up, all in the past six weeks. Any major development like this may help to restore confidence in the high street. But my worry is that the economy is so fragile that the rest of Leeds will suffer as a result, when successful shops move and take their footfall with them.
There’s quite a bit more information about Trinity Leeds in this article from My Life in Leeds which is worth reading.