Moving into £140m scheme

official launch of phase one of Wakefield's Merchant Gate scheme. 'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

official launch of phase one of Wakefield's Merchant Gate scheme. 'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

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A DESERTED £140m regeneration scheme which failed to attract any businesses since it opened last September has its first commercial tenant.

Pawnbrokers and jewellers firm Albemarle and Bond is moving 72 staff into Merchant Gate, next to Westgate station, after signing a deal to use the top floor of a building as offices.

The development, which includes 47,000 sq ft of office space, 35,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, 66 flats, a public square and multi-storey car park, stood empty for months since its launch.

Only a single homeowner and a handful of tenants had taken properties before Albermale and Bond’s decision to relocate staff from Leeds to Wakefield was announced this week.

Now Merchant Gate developer the English Cities Fund (ECF) hopes the move will breathe new life into the scheme and attract more retailers.

Emma Cordingley, development director of ECF, said: “Having Albemarle and Bond as the first commercial tenant at Merchant Gate is a really significant development for the scheme.

“It is the only development in the heart of the city centre providing an office scheme with large and flexible floor plates and it has a hugely competitive advantage over other office spaces in the region.”

Albemarle and Bond is one of Britain’s biggest pawnbrokers and jewellers, with 150 stores around the country.

Chief executive Barry Stevenson said: “The new Merchant Gate development offers us a great opportunity to centralise our administration centre and provides access to a great office space set in fantastic public realm.

“There are also a huge amount of benefits for the business in relocating from Leeds to Wakefield, with obvious savings in property costs.”