Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Clarence Dock development feeling the strain
Look North, the BBC's regional news programme for this part of the world, featured a report earlier this evening on the growing concern over the Clarence Dock riverside development, just outside the city centre. It caught my attention because for six months last year it was home.
Clarence Dock's story is depressingly familiar; a once-vibrant part of the city that had long since fallen into decline, huge sums of money were pumped into developing the site during more financially optimistic times in the hope of creating an exclusive, fashionable and upmarket shopping and living destination.
The reality has turned out to be different. The development itself is isolated from the city centre by, among other things, a brewery and numerous blocks of trendy apartments, and the expensive local shops and restaurants have failed to attract the high footfall rate required to keep the district economically viable. Several have already closed down, including a Starbucks that - as part of a global chain - many would have thought would have staved off recession better than some of the more specialised stores. It joins the growing number of empty commercial premises that line both sides of the otherwise attractive docks.
During my brief stint as a local of Clarence Dock I often had cause to wonder at an area so quiet that some are describing it as a ghost town. The sight of so many yuppie-style apartments are, it has to be said, not for everyone's taste, but the sight of so many longboats bobbing gently in the water and families flocking to the popular Royal Armouries Museum in what used to be a neglected part of the city certainly makes up for it.
There can be no faulting the optimistic intentions of the Dock's developers but their short-sightedness in failing to take into account the possibility of a contracting economy is depressing in the extreme. It would be awfully sad if it heralded the end of an attractive part of Leeds so soon after being brought back to life.