Temple Mill - Under the Hammer
After years standing empty, one of Leeds’ most iconic (and unusual) buildings is set to be sold at auction this December with a starting price of just £1.
2017 has been a bruising year for Temple Mill, with Burberry shelving their initial restoration announcement, its continued deterioration and now the prospect that the building will be sold 'to the highest bidder' - and the ambiguity this entails.
Understandably, for a building that means so much to the people of Leeds and beyond, there is a lot of discussion on social media about the future and who might be interested in purchasing the building. As Trust Director, Martin said "The news that the building is to auctioned off must be received with some trepidation. We only hope that, if it is sold, the new owner will be able to bring the necessary imagination - and investment - to the table, to restore this magnificent mill and to bring it back into use." But with the prospect of an auction, the option of the 'best deal' is not within anyone's control.
This former flax mill's Grade 1 listing is a double edged sword too - on the one hand it is rightfully recognized as the unique and important building that it is (complete with sheep on the roof!) and with a sympathetic restoration, it would offer numerous exciting possibilities for a rejuvenated south Leeds; such as an exhibition space, museum, gallery or even a return to its manufacturing roots. But listing also means that the potential for major alterations are severely restricted – meaning that options for its use may be more limited and less cost effective than they would otherwise be.
One thing is for certain, as other developments are being brought to the table and plans for HS2 and a revitalised station have been announced, the space is a crucial piece in the wider South Bank jigsaw.
But by placing the building on the open market, and a hurried auction at that, Temple Mill's future may have been placed in the lap of the Gods (no puns intended!). With precious little time for any joint public or community-based partnerships to be agreed, and an explicit 'no pre-auction' deal offer there is little time to ensure the building is secured by a sympathetic developer or organisation. There is naturally a worry that Temple Mill could be purchased with little regard for its historic importance, but with an eye on long term land value. This would be the worst possible outcome for the building.
In the coming weeks, we must continue to underline Temple Mill's importance to the city, highlight its heritage and uniqueness and meanwhile hope that the successful bidder has as much affection for this idiosyncratic building as we do.