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Tower Works 'tops out'

Construction of the historic Tower Works scheme on Globe Road in Leeds city centre has reached a significant milestone with a traditional topping out ceremony.

Topping out (L to R) – Piper; Ian Hall, Homes England; John Hughes, Ask Real Estate managing director; Alison Carroll, Ask Real Estate development project manager; Sir Andrew McAlpine; Kevin Carr, SRM works manager and Master of Ceremonies.

The 245 unit build to rent (BTR) scheme, which sits within the historic Tower Works canal-side site, is being built by Sir Robert McAlpine on behalf of developer Ask Real Estate and Richardson in conjunction with Homes England, with funding from Legal & General.

Having now reached its highest point of construction it is set to complete in Spring 2023.

Representatives from the project team gathered to mark the occasion which was led by a speech from Sir Andrew McAlpine.

In keeping with Sir Robert McAlpine’s Scottish roots, a piper led guests to the rooftop where a lucky evergreen bough was secured at the building’s highest point, a tradition which dates back to Roman times to ward off evil spirits. A toastmaster officiated while works manager Kevin Carr and Ask Real Estate managing director John Hughes exchanged a ceremonial tankard and shared a traditional noggin of local ale to celebrate a ‘job well done.’

Commenting on the progress made, Paul Quinn, Regional Director North West and Yorkshire, Sir Robert McAlpine, said: “The topping out of Tower Works marks a significant milestone in the development of this historic site and a great opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work achieved by the whole project team so far.

We look forward to continuing our relationship with Ask Real Estate and Richardson to deliver this exciting Build to Rent Scheme for Leeds, right next to Mustard Wharf which we completed last year.”

McAlpine has also developed the adjacent Mustard Wharf scheme, which is again funded by Legal & General, with both schemes employing skilled local workers during construction.

John Hughes, managing director of Ask Real Estate, added: “Leeds is a key conurbation, but like many cities its housing supply is severely constrained. We have worked closely with Homes England to deliver a scheme which helps to meet that need and we are very proud to have been able to now mark such a significant milestone in the transformation of this historic site.”

The development, which is designed by Ryder Architects, will provide two new residential buildings with 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments and duplexes, ground floor commercial spaces and extensive new areas of public realm.

Tower Works has also recently achieved WiredScore Platinum certification, making it the first residential development in Leeds to attain the globally-recognised verification of infrastructure connectivity. The accreditation means residents will know that their homes have been digitally future-proofed and have the best possible level of connectivity.

Tower Works has a rich industrial history. Established in the 1860s as a steel pin factory for carding and combing in the textile industry, the works closed in 1981 and have been earmarked for regeneration for many years.

The original Victorian buildings, designed by Thomas Shaw, are famous for their Italianate influence which is most obvious in the three prominent towers: Verona; Giotto and Little Chimney, a much-loved element of the Leeds skyline and which will be a focal point of the scheme.

The delivery team also includes: engineering firm WSP and project managers and QS Faithful and Gould.

More on the history of Tower Works

The Tower Works site is located within the Holbeck Conservation Area, which features a number of listed buildings across what was Leeds’ primary industrial area. The area is one of the only remaining places within Leeds where 19th Century industrial buildings have survived largely unaltered and uninterrupted, leaving a special character and appearance to the area.

Tower Works was founded on the site by T.R. Harding in 1864 to make steel pins for carding and combing in the textile industry. In addition to these items the company also developed a range of innovative and advanced industrial instruments, including speed indicators, counters, and gauges. The factory’s products were world class, selling all over the globe.

The original buildings, designed by Thomas Shaw, were erected in 1864-6, with the design being heavily influenced by his love for Italian architecture and art.

Within the Tower Works site, the Giotto Tower, Verona Tower are Grade II* listed, and the Engine House, Little Chimney, and 6-10 Globe Road are Grade II listed. The three towers are Holbeck’s most prominent landmarks and are an integral part of the area’s history and heritage.

The Grade II* listed Verona Tower can be recognised as the smaller ornate tower of the site. It was the first of Tower Works’ Italianate towers to be built and is based on the Lamberti Tower in Verona.

The Grade II* listed Giotto is recognised as the most ornate and largest of all the towers both in height and massing. It was designed as a ventilation tower and its structure contains filters that are able to collect metal particles produced during the pin making process. The Tower is based on the iconic Giotto Campanile, the bell tower of Florence’s Cathedral.

The Grade II listed Little Chimney is the latest of the towers and it is known as the Boiler House Chimney. It can be seen to represent typical Tuscan towers, such as the medieval towers in San Gimigniano, Tuscany.


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