An eyesore office block is set to be demolished and redeveloped under plans to regenerate the city centre.
Wakefield Council has bought Chantry House on Kirkgate and plans to demolish it later this year along with the derelict Snooty Fox pub.
The council said this would clear the way for up to 80 city centre homes if planning permission is granted.
The former council tax and highways building – which has been empty since 2006 – is widely considered to be an eyesore by residents and businesses who say it gives a poor impression of one of the main routes into the city centre.
Coun Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “We know that Chantry House has been an issue for residents and businesses in the Kirkgate area for some time.
“We are pleased that our efforts to secure the site have been successful and we can now move forward with demolishing the building and looking at how we can use the space to support the continued regeneration of this key gateway into our city.”
“It’s an exciting prospect, subject to the usual planning consents, of new homes being created in this part of the city which supports our long term goals to achieve growth and prosperity for our district.
“Kirkgate is a key gateway into the city and our regeneration plans will help to support additional investment in the city, thanks, in part, to its close proximity to The Hepworth and to the emerging Rutland Mills development.”
Wakefield Civic Society president Kevin Trickett said the proposals could go a long way to kickstarting change.
He said: “It’s been a blot on the landscape for a long time so it’s good the council have got hold of it.
“If homes are approved and there are people living in the centre it will be a real boost for bars, shops and businesses. “When you look at lots of European cities they have shops or bars and flats above them, and the people who live there use those amenities.
“There’s a lot that needs to happen to regenerate the city centre but increasing the resident population would be a good start.”
The council said it was in talks with housebuilders to redevelop the site and was looking for grant money to help with the scheme.
Demolition work is supposed to start in the summer and be completed before the end of the year. If planning permission is approved work on the new homes is expected to begin in 2021. Other regeneration work around Kirkgate has included the completion of a £6m scheme to improve roads and pavements for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
In recent years other projects have included the refurbishment of the railway station and the opening of the West Yorkshire History Centre, which holds archives. And the 1970s subways around the former Kirkgate roundabout were filled in, following an Express campaign. The council said its ambition was to use these projects to bring investment into the city.
What you thought
Express readers said dealing with Chantry House was a major part of Kirkgate’s regeneration when they responded to our city centre survey.
Over a month we asked residents about the changes that need to be made to make Wakefield thrive.
More than 500 people responded to the survey and this is the first week we are publishing some of what we found out.
We will address the issues raised by readers in the coming weeks and the results of the survey will be passed to Wakefield Council to be used as part of its high street summit next month.
The verdict on Chantry House was clear.
“Get rid of the eyesore that is Chantry House. Build housing as planned and develop the station.”
“Chantry house needs knocking down”
“Compulsorily purchase Chantry House and market it with a development brief for a mixed commercial and housing scheme. Improve pedestrian access routes between the Hepworth and the town centre and Kirkgate station.”
“Significant improvement and redevelopment/regeneration of key sites including the former ABC cinema site and empty Chantry House office building which both give a very bad impression of the city centre. Also a public art trail to create interest in what is a very uninviting and unattractive area.”
“Knock down ABC, knock down Chantry House” “Demolish Chantry house and Wakefield Arms pub”
“Do something about Chantry House. Must have triple glazing for sound proofing whatever use it takes on”
“Knock down Chantry house and smarten up shop fronts.”