THE great and the good of the Leeds business community joined members of the Ziff family to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Merrion Centre at a lunch in Leeds.
Edward Ziff, chairman of Town Centre Securities, told guests about determined nature of his late father Arnold who created the shopping centre in 1964, the first of its kind in the UK.
He said: “One of the lessons we learned from him was defiance and tenacity were of two of his qualities which usually won him the day.”
The first phase of the centre cost £2m in 1964, the equivalent of £30m today, said Mr Ziff.
He told the audience how his father had invited the Queen to open the centre but she was unavailable, so Marjorie Ziff, Arnold’s wife, did the honours instead.
She was present at yesterday’s lunch at the Leeds Arena lounge.
Mr Ziff added: “People have come and gone and tenants come and gone but the Merrion Centre has survived.
“It’s become a labour of love and we have loved and cherished it.
“Being the youngest of three siblings the Merrion Centre has become my youngest sibling.
“It is central to Town Centre Securities and our fortunes.”
The arrival of Leeds Arena, a new concert venue for the city, has driven the regeneration of the area surrounding the Merrion Centre and allowed Town Centre Securities to redevelop the facade of its property.
Mr Ziff said the centre has prospered because his father foresaw the importance of car parking in city centres and provided more than twice the number of spaces in the original council competition tender.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Ziff said Leeds has transformed over the last half century into a major retail centre and one of the top five cities in the country.
Among the guests yesterday were Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, and Roderick Evans, chairman of Evans Property Group, whose grandfather Frederick was a contemporary of Arnold Ziff.