Bradford’s council leader has said “the wait was worth it” as the UK’s biggest retail development of 2015 opened following a tortuous saga which came to symbolise the effects on city centres of the global financial crisis.
Hundreds of people queued outside The Broadway, the £260 million shopping centre, as it was opened by X Factor winner Alexandra Burke today.
For years, the site of The Broadway has been a huge empty space in the centre of Bradford.
Demolition began in preparation for the development more than a decade ago but the project was mothballed in 2010 by developers Westfield in the teeth of the global economic storm.
The hole in the heart of Bradford became a much-used metaphor for the problems faced by the retail sector during the post-crash recession.
Now the developers of the project say its opening this week will symbolise the regeneration of the area.
Speaking ahead of Ms Burke’s opening performance, council leader Dave Green said “the wait was worth it” as he urged the city to look to the future rather than dwell on the troubled history of the city centre development.
The development is expected to create 2,500 jobs and Westfield has predicted it will increase footfall in the city centre generally by 40%.
Labour councillor Mr Green said: “We made getting The Broadway built a priority when we took control of the council in 2010. Today’s the culmination of it. It’s great.
He said: “You learn lessons from the past and mistakes we made back in the day.
“I’ve been pushing this for the last five years and we’ve delivered. You learn the lessons but you don’t dwell on the past. We keep pushing forward.”
Mr Green said the development has given people “confidence” in Bradford city centre: “Today’s opening is really reaching a plateau of confidence and belief in Bradford. Our job is to go on to the next stage and keep that confidence growing.
“Bradford has punched below its weight as a retail centre for a city of this size for many years.
“What we now have is a 21st century retail offer in a 21st century development allied with all the other stuff that’s going on in the city centre.”
Singer Alexandra Burke, best known for winning the X-Factor and her cover of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, said: “I was in Bradford a couple of months ago with The Bodyguard and we were craving something like this. I feel like Bradford need this. There are tonnes of happy people out there.”
She said: “I heard the history behind it, how long it’s taken so, hearing all of that, it’s such a privilege to be asked to come and perform today.”
Westfield will continue to operate the centre for owners Meyer Bergman.
Peter Miller, chief operating officer Westfield UK & Europe, said: “The opening of The Broadway marks a fantastic day for Bradford.
“We are so proud that the centre is now open and ready to serve Bradford’s shoppers. This development will bring huge regeneration to the city centre in the form of increased footfall and retail sales to the benefit of local businesses, additional jobs, as well as acting as a catalyst for further inward investment which is already matching The Broadway’s.”