Sustainable investor Igloo has hosted a special event which marked both the completion of a new phase of development at Grade II* Listed Marshall’s Mill, in Holbeck.
The event also marked almost a decade of investment in the city by the fund, which has transformed the former derelict area into a hub for pioneering and creative companies.
Improvements to the public realm and the creation of a spacious new reception/gallery were revealed to an invited audience of stakeholders and businesses at Marshall’s Mill, part of Igloo’s Round Foundry estate, which is now home to 85 businesses from a range of sectors, employing around 1,800 people, and including some of the most rapidly expanding companies in the city.
Presentations were made by Tom Riordan, Leeds City Council Chief Executive, Ajaz Ahmed, entrepreneur and Founder of Freeserve and Chris Brown, Igloo CEO. Identifying the area south of the River Aire, which includes Tower Works and Granary Wharf, as having the most potential for future growth in the city, Tom Riordan commented:
“This whole area is exciting and the planned new southern entrance to Leeds train station will open up further opportunities for business by improving connectivity. The companies that are based in the area act as an engine for innovation and growth in the city region economy and Igloo’s Round Foundry estate has played an important role in attracting and retaining talent.”
Referring to the importance of creating the conditions in which enterprising businesses can flourish, Ajaz Ahmed named Leeds-born successes, ASDA and Marks & Spencer. Ajaz Ahmed commented:
“The companies here are fantastic examples of home-grown entrepreneurial spirit and are key to the economic growth of the city. Leeds has a long history of technical innovation, of which Freeserve was a part, and it is fantastic to witness the energy of these new pioneers.”
Reflecting on Igloo’s position as the only private sector organisation to continue investing in the Holbeck Urban Village area of Leeds throughout the recession, Chris Brown sited the company’s stealthy approach to regeneration as key to its success in attracting and retaining tenants and in creating a sense of community.
Chris Brown commented:
“We fell in love with this area more than ten years ago. Steeped in centuries of history, as it was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in Leeds, we knew that likeminded people would be inspired by the setting, if we could help to make the place in which they could create.
“When the recession hit, some of our larger tenants were forced to consolidate, downsize and even move elsewhere. Our reaction to the changing market was to invest almost £2m since mid-2011 in a phased refurbishment of Marshall’s Mill.
“By creating a range of smaller, flexible work spaces, installing ultra-fast fibre broadband and opening up the surrounding public realm, we have attracted a mix of established and new companies, several of which trade worldwide. As a result, we have witnessed an increase in occupancy from a low point of 18% in mid 2011 to its current rate of 60%. Investing in a high quality of specification and design has enabled us to attract high quality clients.”
This latest phase of refurbishment to Marshall’s Mill includes the removal of external walls and the design of a grand new entrance that have opened up the reception area to create a ‘third space’ – a key component in Igloo’s developments being the creation of space in which tenants can serendipitously meet and make business or creative connections. Designed by Marshall’s Mill tenants, Chetwoods Architects and Jones Hargreaves, the new areas reveal some of the building’s original interior features. New elements include a kitchen preparation area and seating, as well as a permanent gallery space that will be used to showcase the work of local artists; a new commission from photographer Johnny Carr is the first temporary exhibition to be displayed.
The variety of spaces within the estate, all of which are distinctive, sympathetically refurbished mill buildings, are home to a host of innovative, fast-growth companies, many of which have an international client-base, creating products and software that are used around the globe.
Marshall’s Mill was part of a complex begun in 1791-92 by English industrial pioneer John Marshall. It was a six storey mill, drawing water from the nearby Hol Beck, with machines supplanting Yorkshire‘s previous cottage industry of hand driven spindles.