17 July 2014

Barely a fortnight ago, we were celebrating news of the Trinity Quarter shopping centre renovations getting back on track. Now, we're positively thrilled to report that Eastgate Quarters will be given similar treatment as a revised multi-million pound

Construction of cafes and casual restaurants will also be included in the redevelopment plan, scheduled to be submitted to Leeds council by the end of this year. Initial plans to redevelop Eastgate, which currently serves as a large car park near the city centre, were halted abruptly last year due to the nationwide economic crisis.

Originally, the forthcoming retail centre was scheduled for completion in 2012, but that deadline has since been extended. Now that the economy is showing signs of recovery and the redevelopment project is likely to be given the go-ahead, Leeds can expect both a huge economic boost and an improved reputation as a result of Eastgate Quarters. Director of policy at Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Ian Williams told the Guardian Leeds: "The wealth created through this development will ripple throughout the city and I am hopeful that other significant regeneration projects will follow as a result."

Combined with news of the re-launched Trinity Quarter construction set to finish in 2013, Eastgate Quarters represents "a clear sign of confidence in the Leeds market", Williams said. The two developments will bring approximately 2 million sq ft of retail property and 8,000 jobs to the city - both of which are undeniably valuable additions - but Leeds lovers are concerned about big businesses choking out independent talent and creative flair in the city centre. John Baron of the Guardian cites the 2007 Corn Exchange restoration which snuffed out many independent businesses as an example of what may be in store. "What Leeds needs to find is its independent spirit. To foster local talent and enterprise," Baron said in his Leeds blog on the Guardian website. "Big shopping malls are great - but they can't be all that Leeds has to offer... let's not forget that Leeds as a shopping destination still needs soul and character."

Though Eastgate Quarters is likely to primarily house an assortment of pervasive brands and be fairly mainstream in its shopping selection, its value with regards to Leeds as a whole should not be underestimated.

Indeed, though Eastgate Quarters may not mean much for Leeds' cultural identity other than reinforcing its retail value, it means quite a bit for the people of Leeds and its economic status. Williams categorised the Eastgate development as "a vital regeneration project" capable of breathing new life into a neglected part of town currently being used for more than 1,000 parking spaces. Next time you're in the area, take a look around Eastgate's car parks and imagine offices, retail space, statement architecture and improved public space in their place. Do you think it'd be a good use of space?

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