Stack beat off two competitors. Credit: LCC

Leeds next up for ambitious Stack

The leisure operator, already advancing a Sheffield project, has been named preferred operator for a food village at the rapidly changing Kirkgate Market.

Leeds City Council invited initial expressions of interest in April 2023 from private operators keen to develop and run the attraction proposed for part of the market’s outdoor trading area.

The market and its surrounds are a major area of interest for the local authority, which is advancing a hotel project with Premier Inn, now consented.

Stack has now been chosen to take plans forward. The operator rose to prominence with developments in Newcastle (a meanwhile use at the Pilgrim Quarter, where it will now operate a foodhall in a heritage building) and Seaburn majoring on a a mix of street food and drink outlets as well as events and entertainment.

More than 2.5m people have flocked to STACK Seaburn – constructed from repurposed shipping containers – since it opened on the North East coast in 2020.

The company is now taking forward a Newcastle United fanzone in a JV with the club, and is in the licensing application process for a plot next to Sheffield’s O2 Academy, among other schemes. Last year it announced pans to take on Manchester’s Hatch, originally a Bruntwood project.

Those are all shipping container-based schemes, the field in which the firm made its name, but Stack has also pushed on plans to convert an old M&S in Durham, and reinvent the historic Empress Ballroom in Whitley Bay.

It was one of three private operators that submitted formal bids to the council in relation to the Leeds site.

The selection as preferred operator was based on both its rental offer and detailed proposals showing how the project would complement the market and generate new custom for existing traders.

Work is still subject to the scheme securing the necessary planning and licensing approvals.

The cost of building the food, beverage and entertainment venue would be met by the operator, with rental payments generating a new income stream for the council.

The outdoor market currently has room for a total of 185 stalls, with around 85 of those being filled on its busiest days.

Under plans first announced by the council in late 2022, the number of outdoor pitches would be reduced and the freed-up space used as the location for the new container village.

The reconfigured area would still be able to comfortably accommodate all existing traders – as well as new arrivals – and would also remain one of the largest sites of its kind in the region.

Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said:

“We are delighted to be able to confirm STACK as our preferred operator for what will be, subject to the necessary planning and licensing approvals, a really exciting addition to Leeds Kirkgate Market.

“STACK’s track record and proposals make it an ideal fit for a scheme that would complement other major improvements at the market – improvements that recently helped push monthly visitor numbers past 500,000.

“Our ongoing investment in this important and historic retail destination means it is now well placed to play its part in powering the further regeneration of the eastern side of the city centre.

“The council is also committed to continuing to work with the market’s existing traders to ensure they can reap the maximum benefit from the proposed food village.”

Neill Winch, STACK’s chief executive officer, said: “We at STACK are thrilled to be selected as the preferred operator for the new food village at Leeds Kirkgate Market. Our passion for creating vibrant, community-focused destinations aligns perfectly with the council’s vision for regeneration and cultural enrichment.

“STACK’s approach is all about sustainability and synergy with local businesses. We’re excited to bring our unique blend of street food, beverage offerings and entertainment to Leeds and to integrate with the historic and bustling market environment.  This opportunity not only allows us to contribute to the city’s dynamic growth but also to create a space where the community and visitors can enjoy a diverse and engaging experience.

“We’re committed to ensuring that the new container village will be a place where both existing and new traders can thrive, enhancing the overall market and ensuring it remains a key attraction in Leeds. We look forward to working closely with the council and local stakeholders to make this vision a reality.”

Recent improvements at the market include an ongoing £10m project to repair, conserve and enhance the 1875 ‘blockshops’, the oldest surviving structures on the site. Phase one of this scheme was completed in August last year, with the second and final stage now under way.

The blockshops work followed the creation of the popular Market Kitchen street food hall and event space as part of a £14m refurbishment.

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