March 10, 2021
A Q&A with Steve Baker – Project Manager, GMI Construction
This month we sat down with Steve Baker, Project Manager at GMI Construction, to discuss his role in the creation of 12 King Street. Steve worked on the building’s construction over 30 years ago, so we mused over his memories of the project, the progression of 12 King Street and the brilliance of Leeds. Take a look.
Just before lockdown I’d more or less retired from work. And it was back at the end of last year that I got the call from Mike Kershaw, Contracts Manager, saying “Do you remember that Kings Court development that you worked on? You don’t have any old photographs of it, do you?” I said I thought I might have some in the loft which I then found, and told him I’d get him some copies.
I came down and met him here, and we had a chat. Next thing I know he’s saying “You don’t fancy coming back to work do you because you’d be perfect for this job?” So I said I’ll consider it, and that’s how I came to get involved.
Last May my wife passed away, and although I’m still dealing with that, this job has given me a lifeline really. When I got the opportunity to come back to work, I thought is it something I really want to do? To throw myself back in at the deep end? But, honestly, I am feeling very comfortable in this situation. It’s what I do.
One of your questions was how do I feel about coming back to work on this building, and I just feel very pleased to be given the opportunity to finish the job I started 33 years ago.
I got involved with the job in around 1987. I remember the site before it was developed – it was a small triangular shaped piece of land, like a little park where people used to sit in there and walk around it at lunch. I remember when we commenced, an old lady came up to us and said “I’m a permanent resident of the Metropole hotel next door, where can I walk my dog now!?”.
She had one of those Pekingese type lap dogs! She used to go out with her little dog and walk it in the park before her afternoon tea, and of course when we rocked up and started building she didn’t know where to go.
I would say that the initial scheme wasn’t without its challenges. I remember one Saturday we thought it would be a good idea to come in and do the pile driving whilst the nearby offices were unoccupied as there were noise restrictions during the week. I was on site with ear defenders on when someone tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a bride and groom stood at the site entrance. They were having their wedding reception in the hotel next door. She was almost in tears and said “please will you stop this noise”. I obviously didn’t know their wedding was taking place so I said of course, because it must have been making a terrific din.
It’s never easy to dismantle one building and impose another. What we’re aiming to do is retain certain features of the building and then enhance it and give it a new twist. For example, what is now called the ‘secondary entrance’, was initially not a significant entrance at all. But looking at footfall coming from the train station along King Street, the developer rightfully wants that to be a key through route to the building.
With the main entrance we are extending the façade of the building forward, in line with the basement which projects further out, and then we are going to clad it with a combination of stone or faience and glass with a modern feel.
We are only at the beginning stages now with a lot to do, but things are going well with demolition well advanced and existing windows removed. We have started dismantling the roof and top two floors ready for the existing structure to be extended and we’re excited about what the building has in store for its future occupiers.
I think Leeds has got a really nice feel to it. It’s my home. It’s not too impersonal, like you can find with other large cities. It’s got a strong mix of social and economic wealth, and it’s also got some great traditions and culture – the city has retained a lot of character.
What I also like about Leeds is its compactness, you can walk around the city with ease. It’s constantly evolving which is brilliant to see – and 12 King Street will be a great addition to the Leeds story. The city’s changing for the better.
If you’d like to find out more about 12 King Street’s premium offering, get in touch with our agents Knight Frank on 0113 246 1533 or Fox Lloyd Jones on 0113 243 1133. And don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter so you can stay up to date on all things 12 King Street and Leeds.