Design team chosen for ambitious city centre transformation plan

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Proposals for the transformation of City Square in Leeds are set to take a significant step forward with the appointment of a design team that will help shape the future of this gateway site.

Leeds-based Re-form Landscape Architecture has been selected to collaborate with Leeds City Council and other stakeholders on the scheme, with the company’s concept for the new-look City Square due to be drawn up and fine-tuned over the course of the next year.

The council has long-standing plans in place for a redevelopment of the site that could see it trebling in size and closing to through traffic.

As part of these proposals, a competition was launched in September last year to identify an external design team with a proven track record of delivering landmark public spaces in city centres.

The competition – run by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the council and contractor Balfour Beatty – has now been concluded, with Re-form chosen as preferred designer.

The company’s vision for City Square is entitled ‘The Glade’ and was inspired by the Forest of Loidis, the ancient woodland where the settlement we today know as Leeds was built.

Although the designs are at an early stage, the intention is for the revamped City Square to be a mix of open and shaded areas, with the historic Black Prince statue continuing to take pride of place.

The council’s executive board will be asked to approve the appointment of Re-form at a meeting next Wednesday, June 23, after which the company will begin work on definitive plans that should be brought before councillors for consideration around the middle of next year.

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate, said: “City Square is already at the centre of life in Leeds and we want to harness its prime position and rich history to create a truly outstanding space that will be a source of pride for all our residents.

“The passion and enthusiasm shown by Re-form during the competition made it clear they would be an ideal choice to help us achieve that goal.

“It will be hugely exciting to see how the plans take shape and eventually usher in a bright new era for this important gateway to the centre of Leeds.”

Andrew Price, director at Re-form Landscape Architecture, added: “Our team is excited by the prospect of working with the city to shape its future identity and create a space for everyday street culture.

“Following a year which has brought the freedom and development of children into sharp focus, we want The Glade to be a playful environment, and an example of how children can be welcome participants of city life.”

Subject to executive board approval, Re-form will head a project team which includes lead engineers Arup, artist Nayan Kulkarni and consultant on childhood and global advocate for children’s play and mobility Tim Gill.

Stephen Semple, area director for Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services business, said: “We are delighted to be a part of creating a world-class public realm space.

“Central to the city’s identity, we are looking forward to developing a design which on completion will become a welcoming space for the residents and visitors of Leeds to enjoy for many generations in the future.”

Martin Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust, which played a role in the competition process, said: “We will support the winning team in re-imagining a City Square that respects the past but creates a green, attractive and accessible space that is fit for the 21st century.”