Tree blessing atop office building marks symbolic milestone

L-R: Lee Powell, CEO at GMI Construction Group; Richard Burns, strategic project director at SGI; Antony Hall, studio director at CJCT; John Pears, CEO at Lowell UK

GMI Construction Group PLC took part in a symbolic topping out ceremony as the final steelwork was installed at a new £52m office development at Thorpe Park Leeds.

Developer, Scarborough Group International (SGI) hosted the event, which included local councillors, guests from the project consultancy team and credit management company Lowell UK, which is relocating its headquarters to the 133,118 sq. ft state-of-the-art building.

The ceremony, involving the centuries old tradition of blessing a yew tree with the four symbolic elements of wine, oil, corn, and salt, was held atop the building, and represents a major milestone in the phase two development at Thorpe Park Leeds – on track to become the largest mixed-use destination in the north of England.

The yew tree was then planted in Central Park, a 15-acre public green space that forms an essential health and wellbeing provision in the heart of Thorpe Park Leeds. Further planting is intended around the estate in future phases.

GMI Construction Group PLC is main contractor for the building, which extends over seven floors with two levels of underground podium parking and amenity below. It was designed by award-winning architects, Carey Jones Chapman Tolcher.

The building, a new benchmark for future development at Thorpe Park Leeds, is being constructed in line with the latest human health and wellbeing standards, with an environmental performance target rating of BREEAM ‘Excellent’ while also achieving an EPC A rating.

Its location and adjacent landscaped courtyard will create an anchor point for the next development plots that will be largely pedestrianised, providing easy access to The Springs retail and leisure centre, Central Park and proposed 113-acre green park beyond.

Approximately 56,000 cubic meters of bulk earth were excavated and redistributed across the site, preventing the need for 14,000 vehicle movements which increased efficiency and reduced the environmental impact of the project.

Lee Powell, CEO of GMI Construction Group PLC, said: “Thorpe Park has become an integral and strategic part of Yorkshire’s economy and we are proud to continue our long-standing contribution to its development through the construction of this new office.

“Working in close collaboration with SGI, we are helping to increase the availability of high-quality offices in the Leeds area for businesses such as Lowell UK.

“We are confident that office space, such as this, which is designed and built to meet new and modern ways of working will be key to how businesses operate in a post-Covid world.”

Adam Varley, Head of Commercial at SGI, said: “We are delighted to reach this significant milestone with our delivery partners at Thorpe Park Leeds. Despite the many challenges caused by the pandemic we have collaborated as a formidable team to deliver this project on time and to exacting standards and we give thanks to Leeds City Council, GMI Construction Group PLC, CJCT, Ares Design, BuroHappold, BWF Consulting, KNG Services, Pell Frischmann, Zerum, Walker Morris, Cushman & Wakefield, JLL, BNP Paribas and RA Real Estate. We all continue to work closely with Lowell to deliver a culturally fitting and inspiring new workplace that will surely set a new benchmark for the future.

“Alongside this building we are also progressing on site an associated five-storey, 442-space, active travel hub to support the new phases of offices development at Thorpe Park Leeds. This incorporates electric car charging and bicycle storage provisions to encourage more sustainable travel.”

John Pears, CEO of Lowell UK said: “This week’s ceremony is an exciting milestone for the Lowell team as we continue the preparations to move to our new home at Thorpe Park Leeds in 2023. The move will provide us with a unique working environment designed to improve collaboration across the business, support colleagues to work in a more flexible way, increase wellbeing facilities, and meet the needs of our business, both now and in the future.”

Thorpe Park Leeds is an already well-established business location, strategically located with its own dedicated access at Junction 46 of the M1. More than 900,000 sq. ft of office space is already built, and The Springs retail and leisure park sits at the core of the mixed-use business community with a line-up of major high street brands including Next, M&S, ODEON Luxe, Pure Gym, Boots, H&M and TK Maxx along with a growing range of smaller, independent, niche retail and leisure businesses.

Further development plans include the delivery of a 113-acre public park with sports and wellbeing facilities for the community of the Leeds City Region and beyond. The phase two development at Thorpe Park Leeds was enabled following a unique investment deal with Legal & General Capital in 2015.

Since then, a transformational 1.35 million sq. ft mixed-use expansion has progressed bringing exceptional new business opportunities to the Leeds City Region. It has also enabled the delivery of the first section of the ‘East Leeds Orbital Route’ (ELOR), a key piece of transport infrastructure connecting north and east Leeds to Junction 46 of the M1. This road also unlocks land for the future construction of over 7,000 new homes on the East Leeds area.

The Award-winning development has been chosen for the new railway station ‘East Leeds Parkway’ and associated Park and Ride, connecting directly to Leeds City Centre in less than eight minutes. This forms part of a £270 million infrastructure investment into Leeds by the Department of Transport.