Monday, April 22, 2024

Preferred operator confirmed for new Leeds Kirkgate Market food village

Plans for a new food village at Leeds Kirkgate Market have taken a significant step forward with the confirmation of a preferred operator for the ‘container-style’ venue.

Leeds City Council invited initial expressions of interest in April last year from private operators keen to develop and run the attraction proposed for part of the market’s outdoor trading area.

Now, following a robust selection process conducted over the course of 10 months, the council has announced STACK as its preferred operator.

STACK specialises in creating sustainable leisure destinations that offer a mix of street food and beverage outlets as well as events and entertainment.

More than 2.5 million people have flocked to STACK Seaburn – constructed from repurposed shipping containers – since it opened on the North East coast in 2020.

Work is now under way on two new STACK venues in Newcastle city centre, one of which will be a ‘fan zone’ next to Newcastle United’s St James’ Park ground.

STACK also has sites at various stages of development in Lincoln, Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough, Whitley Bay, Durham, Carlisle, Northampton, Manchester, Wigan and Sheffield.

STACK was one of three private operators that submitted formal bids to the council in relation to the Leeds site.

Its selection as the preferred operator was based on both its rental offer and detailed proposals showing how the project would complement the market and generate new custom for existing traders.

The start of any work is subject to the scheme securing the necessary planning and licensing approvals.

The cost of building the food, beverage and entertainment venue would be met by the operator, with rental payments generating a new income stream for the council.

The development would, it is hoped, boost footfall across the whole market site and help attract a new customer base to this historic jewel in the city’s retail crown.

It would also create jobs and deliver increased opportunities for independent traders thanks to a seven-days-a-week operation that would extend into the evenings.

The outdoor market currently has room for a total of 185 stalls, with around 85 of those being filled on its busiest days.

Under plans first announced by the council in late 2022, the number of outdoor pitches would be reduced and the freed-up space used as the location for the new container village.

The reconfigured area would still be able to comfortably accommodate all existing traders – as well as new arrivals – and would also remain one of the largest sites of its kind in the region.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We are delighted to be able to confirm STACK as our preferred operator for what will be, subject to the necessary planning and licensing approvals, a really exciting addition to Leeds Kirkgate Market.

“STACK’s track record and proposals make it an ideal fit for a scheme that would complement other major improvements at the market – improvements that recently helped push monthly visitor numbers past 500,000.

“Our ongoing investment in this important and historic retail destination means it is now well placed to play its part in powering the further regeneration of the eastern side of the city centre.

“The council is also committed to continuing to work with the market’s existing traders to ensure they can reap the maximum benefit from the proposed food village.”

Neill Winch, STACK’s chief executive officer, said: “We at STACK are thrilled to be selected as the preferred operator for the new food village at Leeds Kirkgate Market. Our passion for creating vibrant, community-focused destinations aligns perfectly with the council’s vision for regeneration and cultural enrichment.

“STACK’s approach is all about sustainability and synergy with local businesses. We’re excited to bring our unique blend of street food, beverage offerings and entertainment to Leeds and to integrate with the historic and bustling market environment.

“This opportunity not only allows us to contribute to the city’s dynamic growth but also to create a space where the community and visitors can enjoy a diverse and engaging experience.

“We’re committed to ensuring that the new container village will be a place where both existing and new traders can thrive, enhancing the overall market and ensuring it remains a key attraction in Leeds. We look forward to working closely with the council and local stakeholders to make this vision a reality.”

Recent improvements at the market include an ongoing £10m project to repair, conserve and enhance the 1875 ‘blockshops’, the oldest surviving structures on the site. Phase one of this scheme was completed in August last year, with the second and final stage now under way.

The blockshops work followed the creation of the popular Market Kitchen street food hall and event space as part of a £14m refurbishment.

The council has also secured planning permission for a new hotel and gym on the George Street side of the Grade I listed market building.

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