A former printing business which closed after being devastated by the devastating Boxing Day floods of 2015 has been reborn as a business centre.
Duffield Printers in Kirkstall was left under several feet of water when the River Aire burst its banks – but owner Martyn Duffield has invested over £1 million in redeveloping Airedale House as a thriving business centre.
Mr Duffield was on his way to Australia when Storm Eva hit Leeds. Television monitors in Abu Dhabi airport were showing footage of the devastation caused after the River Aire had burst its banks, flooding Kirkstall Road where his print business had been based for more than 50 years. He said:
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and had to do a double-take to make sure it was for real.
“It was mayhem in the first few weeks and I just acted on instinct. My first priority was the people who worked for me. Duffield’s Printers was more than a business – it was a community – but it was clear the business couldn’t be salvaged.”
Using personal recommendations and industry contacts, within a fortnight Martyn and his finance director Janet Broadbent were able to place all but one of the 35 people who worked for Duffield into new jobs.
Fast forward 18 months and Airedale House Business Centre is once again a hive of industry and already at 80% occupancy. C
omprising two buildings on Kirkstall Road, Leeds – Airedale House and adjacent Airebank House, which was also flooded – it offers flexible, serviced office space for growing businesses.
Featuring 40 serviced office units with room for up to 220 work stations, in addition to meeting rooms and ‘virtual’ office space, the centre is home to a wide range of businesses including IT services and equipment providers, lawyers, accountants, recruitment, advertising and PR agencies.
By the time work completes this autumn, Martyn will have invested over £1 million in reinstating and redeveloping the building, including grant funding worth £100,000 from the LEP flood recovery programme, in addition to business rate relief and grants from Leeds City Council to help with initial clean-up costs and flood prevention measures.
The 20,000 sq ft building Airedale House has been tanked inside and out, the ground floor raised, pumps and flood defence barriers installed and non-return valves fitted into the drains, to protect the building against any flooding in future. Mr Duffield added:
“The water was knee-high in the print shop but, if it comes again, we’re ready and defended against it. Any water that gets in will be a trickle and the defences we’ve installed will get rid of it before it causes any serious damage.”
Duffield Printers, which occupied the ground floor of Airedale House when the floods hit, was established in the 1890s and had been trading from its Kirkstall Road premises since 1960.
Airedale House Business Centre continues to be a family affair. Working with his two sons, Adam and Simon, Martyn has invested money from his own pension fund and cash from the insurance settlement to create an environment for new generations of businesses to thrive. He added:
“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working together as father and sons doing much of the labouring ourselves, while subcontracting to specialist businesses within the local area to carry out the air conditioning, electrical installation and any other work we couldn’t do ourselves.”
Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council – and Kirkstall councillor – Lucinda Yeadon said:
“Having witnessed at first hand the devastation caused by the floods, it’s fantastic to see the recovery and transformation that has taken place over such a relatively short space of time.
“It’s testimony to the resilience of the community and the commitment of people like Martyn and his sons, that Airedale House is once again a thriving centre for growing businesses, providing high quality workspace, jobs and opportunities for people in the local area.”