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In 1973, the Leeds Civic Trust published a report entitled ‘Leeds-upon-Aire’, with proposals for a complete renewal of the waterfront area with new living accommodation and leisure and entertainment facilities. It took another twelve years before anything was done and people began to realise that the waterfront might become a desirable area to live and work in rather than a neglected and dirty place to be avoided.

In 1985, Leeds City Council produced a plan of action for the regeneration of the waterfront and in 1988, the Leeds Development Corporation was formed to oversee the planning of the waterfront. Grants were made available to potential investors and partnerships between the public and private sectors were set up. Development companies began to invest in the area and over the past eighteen years, the waterfront has been substantially redeveloped with further development planned for the future. Often old warehouse and docks have been converted to new uses, with the shell of the original building remaining. In other cases, new buildings have been put up on derelict sites. Some of the different kinds of development that have taken place on the waterfront are given below:    

Granary Wharf Development

Though the Dark Arches for some years played host to Granary Wharf’s shops and weekly market, they were not built to last, resulting in the Dark Arches space being used as a very popular car park for people visiting nearby locations.

2006, however, breathed a new lease of life into Granary Wharf as plans were permitted to redevelop the area, with two blocks of apartments and a large hotel chain built a few years later.

The two new apartment blocks, Candle House and Watermans Place, are two of the biggest draws of the Granary Wharf development. Despite Watermans Place idealistic location, bordered by the Leeds Liverpool Canal on one side and the River Aire on the other, it is Candle House that has stolen all the plaudits with its award-winning, contemporary appearance and stylish design making it one of the most sought-after apartments in the whole of Yorkshire.


The old Leeds and Liverpool Canal warehouse has been refurbished and is now offices, with a smart restaurant on the ground floor. An old warehouse built in the 1930s has been converted to offices for architects and designers in the Design Innovation Centre (1988). In 1988, Asda built their new headquarters just south of the river near the Victoria Bridge. It stands on the site of the old Leeds Quaker Meeting House.

2007 saw the completion and opening of Bridgewater Place – a huge office and residential development which is known as the tallest building in Yorkshire at 112m high. It is a 32-storey building, consisting of ten for offices, twenty for flats and residential purposes and two for car parking.

Nicknamed “The Dalek”, Bridgewater Place brings with it safety concerns too, due to several incidents caused by wind. The building has come under much scrutiny, critically described as a “wind tunnel” due to the strong winds caused by its shape.  Due to safety concerns, the roads around the building now close when wind speeds reach roughly 45mph. In January 2016, work also began on undergoing underground cabling of the building as well as plans put in place to construct large wind-deflecting screens around Bridgewater Place in order to prevent further injuries and incidents.

Housing, Hotels and Restaurants.

Along the Calls, many of the old warehouses and scrapyards have been replaced by housing developments, hotels and restaurants.

No. 46 The Calls: In 1987, low cost flats were built at Chandlers Wharf. The original building was a corn chandlers warehouse built in 1876 by William Turton.

No. 48-52 The Calls: Next to the Chandlers is Langton’s Wharf, another housing development built in 1992.

No. 42 The Calls is now a luxury 4-star hotel.

No. 32 The Calls: This is now the Aire, a waterside restaurant with flats above. It is the tallest building on the waterfront and was originally a warehouse built in the early 1800s.

To the south of the river is Victoria Quays, built in the 1980s by Barratts on the site of the Aire and Calder Navigation dock and warehouses. The dock is now planted with water lilies and has a fountain to aerate the water.

Centenary Footbridge

The Centenary footbridge was opened in 1992. It’s a suspension bridge with a single support tower on the southern bank of the river. Commissioned by the Leeds Development Corporation and designed by Ove Arup, it is the first bridge to be built over the river in the city centre for over a hundred years.


For many people, the waterway itself is a major leisure attraction, either for a cruise in a traditional narrowboat or a walk along the towpath, a quiet and pleasant place in the midst of a busy city. But the Waterfront also provides leisure activities in the form of extensive museums and galleries, notably the Royal Armouries, The Tetley and The Discovery Centre.

The Royal Armouries, a museum which houses part of the Royal Collection from the Tower of London, was opened in 1996, the centrepiece of the redevelopment of the Clarence Dock area. As well as being a popular visitor attraction, it is an important international centre for education and study.

Another popular attraction is The Tetley, a contemporary art gallery which opened in November 2013, located on the site of the former Tetley’s Brewery, which closed two years before to end its 189 year operation in Leeds.

In a development worth £1.5m, The Tetley puts on regular workshops and activities for all the family as well as hosting an on-site bar and restaurant on the ground floor of the building, with all profits going to support their artistic programme.

More than simply providing a home for monthly contemporary art exhibitions, the gallery also houses the Tetley Collection, which showcases a series of relics from the brewery’s past.

The Discovery Centre is another popular venue in the area – a state-of-the-art museum storage facility which preserves over a million fascinating objects ranging from meteorites and elephant skulls to dress and textiles collections.

Home to around 95% of collections not currently displayed in any Leeds’ museum, The Discovery Centre offers free tours every Thursday for visitors to discover some of the city’s hidden treasures.
Click images to enlarge
Granary Wharf, 1999
Granary Wharf, 1999
ASDA Headquarters, 1999
ASDA Headquarters, 1999
Design and Innovation Centre, Langton's Wharf and Chandlers Wharf, 1999
Design and Innovation Centre, Langton's Wharf and Chandlers Wharf, 1999
Victoria Quays and former Aire and Calder dock, 1999
Victoria Quays and former Aire and Calder dock, 1999
Royal Armouries, 1999
Royal Armouries, 1999
Centenary Bridge, 1999
Centenary Bridge, 1999
Barge at Granary Wharf, 1999
Barge at Granary Wharf, 1999

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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003