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Ian Simpson's Criterion Place given kiss of life

Ian Simpson’s city-centre ‘Kissing Towers’ are resurrected as new developer jumps on board.

Ian Simpson’s long-awaited Criterion Place double-skyscraper scheme in Leeds finally looks set to get off the ground after almost four years in the wilderness.

Dubbed the Kissing Towers, the huge residential-led project has been lying dormant since Simpson won the competition with Simons Estate to redevelop the plot, located in the city centre close to the station, in early 2004.

Now it has emerged that developer Dandara has teamed up with Simons to kick-start the development for 779 flats, a hotel, casino and 27,000m2 of offices. According to sources, potential issues over land ownership have also been cleared up, allowing the scheme, which has yet to win planning approval, to move forward.

New proposals will see the height of the largest tower, as shown in the original designs (pictured), increased from 47 storeys to 55, and the smaller building stretched from 29 to 33 storeys.
The team was expecting to present its amended proposals to Leeds City council later today (8 November) however, it is understood that meeting has been postponed.

The timing of the revelations has surprised many in the Yorkshire city, which has seen a cooling in its residential market. Around 20 other skyscraper schemes in Leeds are also believed to be in the planning pipeline but have yet to move ahead as developers weigh up their financial feasibility.

One local architectural insider said: ‘Given the scale of [Simpson’s] Lumiere scheme a few hundred metres away; the recently completed Bridgewater Place almost adjacent to the site; the current plans for the north end of the city centre; the extensive Eastgate development; and accompanying new projects on Quarry Hill, the Criterion Place project would only seem viable in a hugely watered-down form from the original scheme.

She added: ‘[Criterion Place’s] old Tramworks site occupies an important location, and it would be a shame not to see a strong architectural statement made there.’

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