Construction Work Nearing Completion

The redevelopment of a key piece of industrial history into a centre for small businesses is nearing completion.

It was once at the heart of Yorkshire’s renowned industrial technology industry and its Italianate towers have been a distinctive landmark on the Leeds skyline for over a century.

But after falling into disrepair, Tower Works is now the centre of activity once again as developers turn the building into a new hub for small businesses.

The area, which is part of Holbeck Urban Village, still looks like a building site but Paul Taylor, Director of Creative Space Management, which will manage the building, said the construction phase will come to an end shortly.

The building, which contains 24 offices between 150 to 1,500 sq ft, will then be fitted out and the outside area completed before Tower Works opens its doors in January.

Where possible, builders have kept the original features of the building, including brickwork, floorboards and even the fireplace in the original director’s office of the factory.

The old factory building is connected to a new three-storey building, which provides larger office space with balconies and views over the city centre.

The buildings are set around a public square that lies adjacent to the canal and incorporates both the listed Verona and Giotto chimneys modelled on Renaissance towers in Italy. It is hoped the outside space will cut through the wall boundary between Tower Works and the canal to include a canalside seating area. There will also be at least 10 car parking spaces.

Mr Taylor said: “It has been a challenging project because with a very old building in a poor state of repair we are always finding unexpected things. The second challenge is to try to be as true to the building as possible whilst also creating great spaces for small businesses and the two don’t always mesh.”

Green features include solar panels on the roof and a building management system for ventilation and lighting.

Mr Taylor said: “There are a lot of small businesses in Leeds which don’t have an option for quality city centre space unless they want serviced office space or low quality space which is hidden away in the city centre.

“We are filling a gap in the market between serviced office space and conventional offices where you have to sign up for at least five years. We believe the need for flexible leases is going to be there for a very long time and at Tower Works businesses can get a space for £60 a week on a one-year lease.”

Creative Space Management, which is also the commercial lettings agent, started showing prospective tenants round the building this week. The building is aimed at creative digital and media businesses.

The 2.83 acre site was acquired by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward in 2005 and according to Mr Taylor, the decision was made to start developing because the site was expensive to maintain in its current state. “It was costing a fortune,” he said. “Yorkshire Forward decided that money was better spent on developing the site and at the time the demand for development was there.”

Yorkshire Forward has invested £6.7m into the project.

The building of the first phase remains close to the original development design, although some of the communal features, which were originally put in to serve the whole development, such as a library, shared terrace, have been taken out for now.

“But these are features we can reintroduce as and when the rest of the site is developed,” said Mr Taylor.

Future phases of the site, which are planned to be delivered by a private developer, will include shops, bars and cafes at ground level and offices and residential apartments above.

Picking up pieces of the past

Tower Works comprises three Italianate chimneys built around a former steel pin factory dating from 1864, which was owned by Colonel Thomas Harding.

The factory sustained damage during the Second World War when neighbouring buildings were bombed during the air raids on the nearby Leeds City railway station. It closed in 1981 after 117 years.

Creative Space Management, which is overseeing its redevelopment, discovered five invoices and an advertisement from the factory dating between the 1880s to the 1940s on eBay as well as a Harding Gauge, produced by the factory in addition to their pins and hackles, which was used for counting the amount of cloth produced on machine.