KPMG in talks to build new Criterion Place HQ

A MAJOR city centre site which fell victim to the property slump when plans for ‘kissing towers’ to be built on it collapsed could become home to three new buildings, including a new Yorkshire headquarters for professional services firm KPMG.

KPMG has started a nine month exclusivity period with Leeds City Council to explore options for delivering a new building on Criterion Place. 

The Yorkshire headquarters for the firm would be one of three new buildings constructed on the brownfield site, which has been used as a car park for more than a decade and is owned by Leeds City Council.

Plans for two £115m towers on the Leeds site, which is flanked by Sovereign Street and Swinegate and was once occupied by Queens Hall, were scrapped in 2008 after Leeds City Council’s executive board ruled the project proposed by Simons Developments was not commercially viable.

Sovereign Leeds, a company established by property professionals Mark Hancock and Mike Heydecke, is working with Leeds City Council and KPMG to bring KPMG’s potential building forward.

Mr Hancock told Sovereign Leeds would fund the building, which he said could be completed by early 2015, but not the other two planned for the site.

Leeds City Council is developing a draft masterplan for the site, and wants to include urban public green space as part of the proposal.

Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive member responsible for city development, said: “We are pleased to be working with KPMG to explore the delivery of a new office in Leeds for the firm. The Council is keen to re-invigorate development in the city centre. 

“This is an exciting development opportunity which could help fund the new proposed city centre green space on this site and boost the construction industry, bringing additional investment and jobs to the city.

“The Council is currently working on a draft masterplan for the site which will include three buildings, with the possibility of KPMG occupying one, and the potential for a multi-storey car park to be incorporated into one of the two remaining buildings proposed on the rest of the site.”

KPMG, which is currently based nearby at Neville Street, said potentially moving to Criterion Place was one option it was pursuing. Others include looking at other office sites in the city.

The professional services firm, which has 750 employees in Leeds, has been reviewing its Leeds office options in the context of employee growth and a 2015 lease expiry on its current property.   

Iain Moffatt, KPMG’s Leeds office senior partner, said: “In the face of a challenging property development market we are pursuing an innovative route to meeting our future office requirements by taking on an active role of development partner.

“Though at a very early feasibility stage, our agreement with Leeds City Council is an exciting step forward in our planning towards the future of KPMG in Leeds. We are continuing to consider all options but, clearly, will be focusing on the opportunity presented by Criterion Place in the coming months.”

Mr Hancock, who is a founding partner of Talisman Capital and also set up Amerdale Group, a privately-funded development and investment company with a portfolio of approximately £100m when it was sold to Kilmartin in 2007, said discussions had been taking place between the parties for several months and that Sovereign Leeds was set to appoint an architect to design the building.

He said if a building was designed for KPMG, which Sovereign Land would own, it would reflect KPMG’s “brand and ideology” and would be state-of-the-art and include the latest sustainable building methods.

Criterion Place has been a brownfield city centre site since the demolition of the Queens Hall in 1989. Simons Developments wanted to build two 47-storey and 27-storey towers on the land, which has been viewed as a major development site for many years.

Speaking at a property seminar earlier this month, Martin Farrington, director of city development at Leeds City Council, said the Criterion Place site should be developed in phases and that a strategy for the area was to “de-risk the environment so you then have the opportunity to get someone with the confidence to come forward and develop it”.

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