14/15 Eldon Terrace, Leeds

Ever since I first arrived at Leeds University, these two units on Woodhouse Lane have been derelict and bare.  It’s time something was done about it.

14/15 Eldon Terrace

The property is bad repair and is an eye-sore on the area of Leeds University that it is central to.  There are cracks in the North face brickwork (the left-hand side), windows need replacing and obviously something needs to be done about that shop-front.

However, the location is great.  You only have to cross the road to be at the university.  It takes less that twenty minutes to get downtown.  There are ranks of shops practically next door.

From a practical point of view, I don’t think it would be too difficult to improve this building.  Add double glazing to the windows, include insulation throughout.  Check out the basement and keep an eye out for moisture.  Remove that stupid shop-front and replace it with a new section – depending on the use, this could be a timber framed shop-front or, if residential, some windows, perhaps including another bay.  At the back of the house there is an exterior staircase and two very small yards.  The back of the house does seem quite imposing, with its bare walls reaching up to the eaves.  I like it, but it does look a bit bare and featureless.

All these improvements would cost a lot of money though, and that would be the main problem in tackling the development of this building, and probably the reason why nothing has been done with the building up til now.  Well, that and getting it through planning, at any rate.

The planning constraints on a building such as this must be incredibly constricting.  In 1996 planning permission was granted to change the use of 15 Eldon Terrace to offices, but an application earlier this year to change use of 14 Eldon Terrace to a taxi control office was refused. Another 2008 application for both properties stating a “Change of use of former student letting office to form ground floor restaurant with bin store to rear” was also refused. The planning authority obviously aren’t happy with that use, bearing in mind the fact that it is right next door to residential property, a busy road and where there are already several eateries.  They are jumping on it for commercial usage, but I don’t think the planners really appreciate that.  At most it would only become a shop/estate agent office (since it has been previously) and, frankly, I don’t think that’s going to happen because of the poor access that the building has to the road.

However, I don’t think that this building has seen the end of its days yet.  For one thing, the owner of the property has too much tied up in it but also, the planners probably wouldn’t allow its demolition anyway.  No, I have a nobler purpose for it, and one that I think all parties would appreciate better than what is there now. The exact details I will withold, but there are some general principles which I will outline here.

Get the University involved -With the site being so close to the university, there will always be a lasting connection between the campus and Eldon Terrace that cannot be broken, so the University of Leeds should be able to have an impact to what happens to the site.  I’m not saying that they should be able to choose, but they should be in on discussions.

Do something that the planning office will pass – Its no use trying to propose the kind of thing which they obviously don’t want at that location.  Any kind of eatery or cafe, nightclub or bar will not get planning permission here because there are too many of the already, and building another at such a location will destroy the residential image of the building and area beyond.  The building is generally residential, so the local government cannot refuse the reuse of the site as a residential usage, provided that the other elements of the design fit their criteria.

Make it nice – I believe that, if enough money and effort is poured into this site, it could be a proud building on that corner, rather than the eye-sore that it is today.  If effort is put into the design to make sure that it is not only respectful to its heritage as a traditional Leeds terrace, but also that the craftsmanship and style make it a stunning conversion rather than simply patching up something which was falling into decay, then the building will create a more polished feel to that area, rather than being the black hole of that intersection.

Get the money from London –  We’ve admitted that it would cost quite a bit to develop this property into the kind of thing I describe above, but let us also admit that the students of Leeds university don’t all come from Leeds, in fact, a lot of them come from London and the South, where money is generally more available than it is up here.  Some such London investor might be looking for a place for their children to live for their time at university, and would be willing to invest that small proportion of their savings making sure they have a property that benefits from its proximity to the university, as well as its stylish environment (created once we’ve had a go at it, obviously).

Develop a financial plan –  It may seem rich at a time when the housing price is falling to expect an investor to put his money into a site that is in such bad repair that it has been derelict many years, but, I believe that creating value in a house is more than simply how much you could get in rent.  People aren’t going to pay huge amounts more for being in a house close to campus without any other reason, but they are willing to pay extra if they can guarantee they will be with a group of good mates in that house.  Some people would say that you can never guarantee things like that.  I respectfully disagree, but that’s where I’m going to stop in terms of my ideas for this property.

If you want to ask me any further questions though, please do by leaving a comment below, especially if you are the owner!  ;)

UPDATE 24th Feb 2009: go to  www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9nN3b8hPB0 for a video of the building’s context in Leeds.

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2 Comments

  1. Mr magoo
    Posted 29 October, 2008 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    what a load of rubbish: ‘Get the money from London – We’ve admitted that it would cost quite a bit to develop this property into the kind of thing I describe above, but let us also admit that the students of Leeds university don’t all come from Leeds, in fact, a lot of them come from London and the South, where money is generally more available than it is up here.’ – yeah because northerners still have the half penny! Youve wasted your time posting this as its now a shop!

  2. Posted 29 October, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mr Magoo and thank you for your comment.

    I disagree that I’ve wasted my time posting this, although I admit that is a little outdated. I’m not currently in Leeds and was not aware that it had become a shop. However, I assume that the shop doesn’t take up the entire two properties and also do not believe that the presence of shop rules out my ideas of development. I also wrote this article several months ago, so hadn’t taken into consideration the market crash that is now hitting investors (particularly London) very hard.

    I would also defend my issue of getting money from London, however, on the basis that they are much more willing to take a gamble with their money. The comment wasn’t supposed to suggest that London is simply richer. Investment for large businesses comes from a national stage and all that I’m suggesting from this comment is that small projects ought to too, rather than locally where small investors often find it difficult to put in money if it might not pay off for a while. Ideally, I would get American investors, since they are the best at taking on long-term investments that don’t pay off quickly, but no American investor would take on a small project in Leeds, UK without a vested interest, and that’s why a London student parent would be the best type of investor for this kind of project.

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  1. New article on 14/15 Eldon Terrace on 1st February.

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