A comprehensive renovation project, valued in the millions, is heralding a vibrant new chapter for the most historic section of Leeds Kirkgate Market.

Initiated last year, the £10 million overhaul of the market’s 19th-century ‘blockshops’ area is underway, with the first phase of the Leeds City Council endeavour now successfully concluded.

In total, 24 units have undergone extensive refurbishment, boasting enhancements such as new canopy fronts, electric roller shutters, extraction ducting, LED lighting, and additional storage space.

Significant structural work has encompassed roof repairs, revitalised walkways with fresh glazing, the installation of new guttering, and floor adjustments to improve accessibility.

The project team has meticulously preserved the site’s heritage, with features like herringbone brickwork restored to their former grandeur.

The next few weeks will mark the commencement of the second and final phase, where an additional 24 units will receive similarly elegant transformations.

The ongoing rejuvenation of the blockshops is lauded as a testament to the council’s unwavering dedication to upholding Leeds Kirkgate Market as a cornerstone of the city’s retail landscape.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said; “Leeds Kirkgate Market is an important and much-loved part of life in our city and, as such, we’re determined to keep on giving it the kind of care and attention it deserves.

“The blockshops scheme is a fine example of how this approach is delivering real and tangible benefits, with its now-completed first phase set to make a huge difference to traders and customers alike.

“The project has been designed to complement other investments by the council in the market, which I’m proud to say has recently been attracting more than 500,000 visitors per month.

“It’s great to hear that the second phase of the blockshops scheme will be getting underway soon – it will be fascinating to watch as further improvements take shape and help make this famous symbol of Leeds an even better place to shop and spend time.”

Dating back to 1875, the blockshops represent the oldest extant structures in the market, comprising eight two-storey buildings interconnected by an infill glazed roof.

Due to their historical significance and central position within the larger market complex, the renovation project demanded meticulous planning and preparation by the council and contractor Bermar.

Several of the refurbished units are presently available for rent, while others are in the process of opening for business.

Three have been reserved by the Leeds-based charity Zest for an initiative called The Leeds Cookery School @ Kirkgate Market. These units will offer a range of community cooking programmes, bespoke cooking classes, and corporate away day opportunities.

Leeds City College is also poised to occupy a unit, operating it as a vegan and vegetarian café. This will afford catering and hospitality students and apprentices invaluable hands-on experience in business operations.

Additional support and enhancements provided by the council for the market in recent years include:

The establishment of the popular Market Kitchen street food hall and event space, part of a £14 million refurbishment project in 2016.

Over £1.4 million in rent concessions to aid traders in coping with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A freeze on rent increases in place since 2011.

The council is presently exploring the potential introduction of a ‘container-style’ food village in a section of the market’s outdoor area, aimed at bolstering foot traffic for traders in that zone.

Furthermore, a council-submitted planning application is in motion for the development of a new hotel, gym, and commercial units on the George Street side of the market.

For businesses eager to learn more about the opportunities presented by the refurbished blockshops area, a commercial tender pack is available by contacting market.events@leeds.gov.uk.