Friday, 12 September 2008

No takers for Leeds Corn Exchange

Published on YEP 11 September 2008
By Debbie Leigh
A LANDMARK Leeds shopping centre that kicked out all its traders has just ONE tenant after a major refurbishment – leaving 35 units empty.
Shops at Leeds Corn Exchange were given notice 10 months ago, part of plans to create a food emporium.But one prospective tenant who backed away from taking one of the units said the rent of £60-70 and service charge of £12.50 per square foot a year was "astronomical". She currently pays £19 rent and £1.80 service charge per square foot in Leeds.In November, many leaseholders, whose boutiques sold a wide variety of jewellery, clothing and gifts, were given just two months notice.At the time Threadneedle, which manages the listed building on Call Lane on behalf of leaseholders Zurich Assurance, said letting agent Central Retail was " engaging with potential operators".

But aside from the much-trumpeted agreement with award-winning Leeds chef Anthony Flinn, right, who is taking over the entire 13,200 sq ft basement level, NONE of the remaining 35 units has been taken.A spokeswoman for the Corn Exchange said it was "heavily in negotiations with new tenants and we hope to be able to announce the next phase of lettings soon".The Piazza by Anthony – a restaurant, bakery and patisserie that will supply all the Anthony's eateries – is expected to open around November.Anthony Flinn senior, business director at Anthony's, said: "There's a lot of work to do in filling all the other units, course there is."We are in a credit crunch. I understand why people are nervous."We feel we have taken over a big enough chunk of it to make a success of it downstairs within its own right."Proposals for the rest of the building, which has undergone a £1.5m refurbishment, include selling produce on the first floor and non-food cookware on the upper floor.One former tenant said they had been told by Corn Exchange staff the venue would be full of the new businesses by April this year. Some said they had been told it would be operating from June.Several Leeds businesspeople told the YEP they had considered the move but decided against it.The co-owner of one successful lunch spot said agents told them a big launch had been planned for June this year, when they expected around 10 units to be open.They said it was too expensive.She said: "They (the agents) were like, 'How much would you like to pay?' But even if it was free it just doesn't feel right for us."The owner of another city-centre deli said: "I won't be going in now but never say never. I wouldn't say it's a risky venture but it's too much of a risk for me."Lorna Potter, of Pickles & Potter Deli, Queens Arcade, said: "We were looking to go in but the reason why we pulled the plug is it doesn't feel right for me."Reasons people gave included: "It's an unproven site, the rents are high, people aren't spending" and "I just think there are better places in Leeds to start a new shop."Leeds City Council owns the building but it is leased to Zurich Assurance in an agreement spanning more than 100 years.The only remaining businesses are Ark Male, Ark Female, and Grin, whose lease expires in January.Describing her feelings one leaseholder said: "Bitterness that we've been kicked out and also at the fact that they've destroyed a beautiful building really."

12 September 2008 11:57 AM