19 February 2014
Having bloomed into a thriving metropolis in the last decade, Leeds is a place where the most modern of amenities find their home. What once was a quiet market town is now a centre for business, financial and legal services rivalled in the UK only by London. With this growth came the opportunity for new builds and developments, and this opportunity was seized especially eagerly by those wishing to expand the city's shopping.
The Victoria Quarter was historically an area of retail, making its purpose today quite fitting. Before it was an arcade, it existed as a series of businesses including butchers, fruit stalls and more up market goods, such as haberdasheries. It was in the early 1900s that Frank Matcham, a famous theatre architect, was commissioned in the creation of an elaborate arcade. Many elements of his intricate and attractive design remain today, including marble and gilded mosaics. Matcham's creation resulted in two streets, the arcade and the Empire Theatre. In its heyday, this was a building of grandeur, visited by the rich and admired by all, but after some years of wear and tear, it became almost a ruin. In the late 1980s, the committee in charge of the building began the restoration project that makes it today one of the most unique and celebrated shopping centres in the North. The success of the restoration project lay in the respect and preservation of many original features. Today, the centre has a charming Victorian aesthetic, which plays tribute to times gone by while heralding the newest and best in high-street fashion and retail. The most significant addition to the centre in terms of design was the stained-glass roof, which was created by Brian Clarke and set a Guinness World Record for its extraordinary length. A large change also fell upon the Empire Theatre, which is now one of the few Harvey Nichols stores outside London. This, along with a large collection of fashion and technology shops, is what has given the modern day Victoria Quarter the nickname "The Knightsbridge of the North".
Trinity Leeds, in contrast to the Victoria Quarter, is a celebration of all that is absolutely new. It is a shopping centre very close to the Victoria Quarter physically, but far away in terms of aesthetic and content. Trinity Leeds is considered more than just a shopping area, but a lifestyle destination, with business enough inside it to fill an entire day if desired. The most contemporary fashion shops exist here, including Coast, Crocs, Foot Locker, H&M, Hollister, Office, Topshop and Urban outfitters, but this is not all, there are restaurants and entertainment areas too. Eateries range from famous fast food outlets to the up-market Angelica, which serves cocktails and sushi from the sixth floor of the centre. Trinity Leeds is much like The Light, another modern shopping centre in Leeds, in many respects. Both have their own cinema and a number of well-know chain restaurants and cafes such as Nando's and Starbucks. The Light has more of a focus on entertainment than shopping, but does house some very interesting and up-and-coming independent-style boutiques including Ark and Fabrication.
Yet another wildly different addition to the Leeds shopping scene is the Leeds Corn Exchange, which is housed within an impressive Victorian dome. The structure is now a Grade I listed building, as it was built in 1862 as, as the name might suggest, a trading centre for corn. In 2008 the centre was transformed into an emporium for food, drink and independent retail. It is here that visitors to the city find vintage boutiques, small patisseries and street food. The Corn Exchange attracts tourists and locals alike, and is particularly popular among those deemed to belong to various alternative sub-cultures.
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