Plans to safeguard the future of Leeds’ First White Cloth Hall are being drawn up by new owners, Rushbond, following their acquisition of the site. Working with the City Council, City Fusion and other interest groups, Rushbond plans to refurbish and redevelop this historic building as part of the wider renaissance of the Kirkgate area of Leeds City Centre.
Mark Finch, Director of Rushbond, said: “The First White Cloth Hall is arguably the most important building that drove the transformation of Leeds’ economy in the early 18th century. Its relevance is engrained in the social and architectural history of the City. Over many years, there have been various attempts to bring forward a viable scheme that ensures a sustainable future for the asset. We now believe that, with the skills and resource we and our team can bring to bear, and working closely with the local community in particularly the City Council, Historic England and the Leeds Civic Trust, we can transform the site and ensure it truly acts as a catalyst to the wider regeneration of this amazing historic street.”
First White Cloth Hall was built in 1711, providing the first secure and sheltered building for the sale of undyed cloth in the City. It was replaced by a second hall on Meadow Lane and then subsequently by the third Hall, on Crown Street. The First Hall was later converted into an alehouse, shops and then houses, and most latterly used as shops. It has been on the Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register since 1999.
Mark added: “There is rarely a quick fix to significant heritage buildings such as this and we want to ensure that our scheme and approach is considered and appropriate. But we do want to work very quickly indeed in bringing a project forward. We have already instigated far reaching enabling works which are substantial and significant in our commitment to the preservation of the remaining fabric whilst we develop the detail around the plans. We will be working with the former owners, City Fusion, and the City, on a shared vision for Kirkgate, so as to ensure that the First White Cloth Hall scheme can drive further investment in the transformation of this part of the City.”
Commenting on the initiative, Paul Nathan-Geary for City Fusion said: “We have for a long time been working on finding the best solution to ensure the sympathetic restoration of the First White Cloth Hall and are pleased to have reached agreement with Rushbond, who are an award winning property company with a track record of revitalising similar heritage buildings. This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on bringing forward development proposals for the remainder of our Kirkgate land holdings over the coming months and we look forward to working closely with Rushbond and other stakeholders, to ensure that the various projects complement one another and deliver our shared vision for this important part of the city centre.”
Cllr Richard Lewis, Executive Member for Regeneration, Transport and Planning of Leeds City Council, said: “The regeneration of the First White Cloth Hall and the wider Kirkgate area is an important city centre priority for the Council. Sensitive refurbishment and redevelopment will mean opportunities for jobs and training and act help to bring further investment and impetus to the regeneration of Kirkgate.
“Our objective is to bring the building back into a sustainable use as quickly as we can and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate and work with Rushbond on the delivery of this venture, initially with a view to ensuring that planning and listed building applications are submitted in the coming weeks so that the current momentum, which is very welcome, is maintained.”
Finally, Mark Finch added: “We genuinely believe that there are hugely exciting and transformational times ahead for Kirkgate. The acquisition of the First White Cloth Hall also complements our historic ownership on Kirkgate, our recent acquisition of New York House and our wider interests in this part of the City. We would like to be in a position to unveil more specific plans in the Spring.”Authored by: