New look for Leeds

Published:  26 March, 2014

As part of its Trinity Leeds redevelopment, Land Securities bought the old Boar Lane car park. What were the challenges in upgrading it to match a brand new shopping centre?

With its location in the heart of the city, there wasn’t space to build a new car park immediately adjacent to Trinity Leeds shopping centre. Instead Land Securities bought an existing car park, and its subsequent refurbishment landed them, and contractors USL StructureCare, a shortlisting in the Best Refurbishment category at The British Parking Awards 2014.

Prior to opening the shopping and leisure destination in March last year, Land Securities bought the 630-space multi storey car park in nearby Boar Lane.

“We knew we wanted a dedicated car park for Trinity Leeds and were in talks with a few car park owners prior to the purchase,” says Land Securities’ portfolio car park manager Paul Plumbley. “We went with Boar Lane because it was the closest to and had the best access to the centre; it best suited our needs.”

Land Securities bought the car park in April last year with previous operator NCP continuing to run it until the refurbishment began in August, when Land Securities took the management in-house with its service provider OCS. And it re-launched in October to coincide with the opening of Trinity Leeds.

According to Plumbley, the car park was outdated and run down, so the refurbishment involved a complete overhaul and modernisation including concrete repair and other structural work, re-surfacing with deck coatings and reconfiguring the layout, reversing the flow of traffic to accommodate a new one-way system.

They also installed 40 CCTV cameras, an IP network, replaced over 1,000 light fittings, and upgraded the lifts and signage with Variable Message Signage (VMS) showing availability on each level. They also re-located the main entrance and exit so it was aligned with the centre, and built a new customer service lounge which is manned along with a staff presence in other parts of the car park to assist visitors.

APT Skidata, which has equipment in over 80 per cent of the Land Securities portfolio, was brought in and installed a range of sophisticated equipment to enhance the user experience as part of the renovation. It installed its latest pay-on-foot terminals, power cash pay machines with a print-at-home facility and chip and pin, entry/exit barriers and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) – all systems powered by its Parking.Logic management software.

There are also reverse indicator points marked on the walls so motorists can back in to spaces more easily without having to look at the floor as a guide. And they also opted for bar code readers to be installed at the payment machines allowing customers to use them to redeem offers received by email as part of the centre’s marketing and communications strategy.

While the car park isn’t directly linked to the centre, it’s only a 2-3 minute walk from the main entrance which is visible from the car park exit for easy navigation.

“We made a conscious effort to align the car park with the centre with branding,” says Plumbley. “There are centre logos, shopping guides and dedicated routes leading to the centre, so it’s geared up for Trinity Leeds.”

Working with refurbishment specialist USL StructureCare, design consultancy The Velvet Principle, who were also responsible for the wayfinding within the shopping centre, were appointed to implement the Trinity Leeds branding into the car park.

Large graffiti-style illustrations including a girl walking her dog, a free runner leaping over a rail and a tightrope walker extend across the main internal wall to a pedestrian walkway that guides visitors to the exit closest to the centre. And to reinforce the connection with the shopping centre, several of the graphics are representations of the centre’s distinctive glass roof, and the centre’s brand logo is used in the external signs.

Each floor is individually colour coded with the level number marked clearly on the internal columns and by bold graphics at the pedestrian exits.

According to The Velvet Principle, the use of vibrant colours and large playful graphics contribute to creating an interesting point of arrival and provide memorable cues to help returning shoppers locate their car.

The Velvet Principle creative director, Sean Brereton, explains: “The car park can be a customers’ first and last experience of a destination. Despite this there is often a lack of investment in the internal aesthetics. As a result multi-storeys in particular, can be pretty gloomy, unwelcoming places. With a little paint and imagination, the rather forbidding concrete can be transformed by colour and graphics that communicate the personality of the destination brand and provide a point of difference with competing assets.”

The car park had been known as a long stay car park for commuters but Land Securities changed the tariff to make it more suitable for shoppers, allowing them to park fairly cheaply for a few hours with a price hike to discourage longer stay.

A current sale offers parking for £3 for up to three hours, before jumping up to between £8.80 for four hours and £30 for 24 hours. And it feeds into the centre’s marketing activity, with a competition giving people the chance to win a month of free VIP parking.

And changes have been made to make it more user friendly. There are 14 spaces for disabled users and 10 parent & child bays, as well as others specifically for mothers to be and ‘super mini bays’ reserved for city cars, and electric vehicle charging points.

Customer service initiatives have been implemented too. As well as a range of services including ‘Shop and Drop’ whereby customers that leave their shopping bags in the Customer Service Lounge can opt to have them transferred to the car park office so they can pick them up near their cars, there is AA breakdown cover for all cars in the car park and an escort to car service where customers can request a member of the security team to walk them to their cars during dark hours.

There is also a live feed on the centre and Leeds City Council websites allowing visitors to view how many spaces are available before their visit.

While the Boar Lane project didn’t win the British Parking Award, it was Highly Commended, and Plumbley is proud to have been shortlisted at all, as he explains: “We were surprised to be shortlisted in the first place. Many of the other car parks in the category had been re-built at costs of up to £80m. The work we did cost £1.75m so we were excited just to be nominated.”

And he’s pleased with the way the car park has tuned out.

“Leeds isn’t particularly well served for car parks, especially in the centre, so it was crucial to keep it operational even when the major works were ongoing. It wasn’t an easy feat,” he says.

“The car park was only shut down for what was effectively one day and we now have a state-of-the-art car park with a link to the shopping centre where visitors can be in the centre within two minutes. The refurbishment has created a completely modern, welcoming and much safer car park.”

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