It had been an increasingly shabby looking landmark for years, mirroring the sad decline of Armley town centre.
But on Friday a special celebration was held to mark the completion of ambitious work to restore the former Mike’s Carpets building to its former glory – and stand as a symbol of the planned turnaround of the area’s fortunes.
A plaque has been unveiled marking the restoration of the Grade II Listed former Primitive Methodist Chapel, now known as now MC Carpets, which has been has been the centrepiece regeneration project at the heart of the Armley Townscape Heritage Initiative Fund.
The fund involved the council, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and property owners and has helped restore 22 historic properties along Branch Road and Town Street over a period of nearly eight years.
The scheme has involved £2.7m of investment to reinstate traditional shop fronts, roof and structural works and windows which has contributed to and encouraged the re-use of vacant upper floor space.
Natural Yorkstone flags were laid on the footpath on Town Street which include keystones highlighting local celebrities, such as the authors Alan Bennett and Barbara Taylor Bradford, industrialists and historic events.
The journey wasn’t always an easy one. As The Dispatch reported in July 2016, work on the renovation of the Grade II Listed building was delayed after the initial builders left the project, with no major work completed. Scaffolding already erected for the job was taken down.
Councillor Jim McKenna (Labour, Armley) said:
“The former Primitive Methodist Chapel is a key landmark in Armley. Whether you are walking up to Town Street or going towards Gotts Park or the city centre, you know where you are when you can see the building!
“This has been a challenging process, but it is one where it was absolutely right for us to push through and make sure the work was completed. The work on the building, alongside the improvements on Branch Road and Town Street, have made a major difference to Armley and it is right that we celebrate the hard work of the Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Local Councillors and the building owners to bring this to fruition.”
Fiona Spears, Yorkshire and Humber regional director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said:
“HLF investment goes well beyond the bricks and mortar of a building. THI schemes can help boost local economies, not only by improving how they look and feel, but by prompting business and boosting the sense of pride in an area. We’re pleased to support Leeds City Council in celebrating and restoring Armley’s historic character.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, added:
“Despite many challenges the Armley grant scheme has demonstrated the benefits of strong partnership working between the council, Heritage Lottery Fund and property owners. Investing in district centres is an important part of the regeneration strategy particularly as they do not always benefit from the prosperity that the city centre enjoys.
“In particular the restoration of the chapel at the former Mike’s Carpets building has greatly enhanced a key gateway site both for Armley and into the city centre. Hopefully this and the other projects that have been carried out will make a positive lasting impact for Armley.”
The grant scheme started in April 2009 and, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, was finally completed last September.