Alexandra Burke yesterday sang the praises of the long-awaited Broadway shopping centre as it finally opened in Bradford.
The singer and stage star cut the ribbon on Westfield’s £260m development, more than a decade in the making after falling victim to the financial crisis and subsequent recession.
Many had doubted that Bradford would ever see this day, even members of Miss Burke’s own family.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “I have a cousin that’s from Bradford and he always said the Westfield Broadway centre would never open and here it is today.
“I just think it a great thing it has opened up and it will change people’s views.”
Thousands of shoppers queued under grey skies for the 10am public opening of the gleaming new centre, which nestles in the heart of the old Victorian city.
Broadway is home to two new department stores in Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, 70 new shops including H&M, Next, Topshop, Topman, New Look, Schuh and River Island and a food court.
But away from all the singing and shops there was a feeling that the event represented much more than just the first day of trading for a 530,000 sq ft retail destination.
First, there is the financial impact of Broadway, which has created 2,500 new jobs. According to the developer, the shopping centre will boost annual retail spend in the city centre to £1bn a year.
Footfall, or the number of people entering the city centre, is expected to increase by 40 per cent.
Second, there is the wider, catalytic impact of the development. Peter Miller, chief operating officer of Westfield in the UK and Europe, said that £500m of new work is already underway as a result of the investment.
He paid tribute to Bradford council for standing by the developer “through some of the darkest and most challenging times following the financial crisis to help bring the project to fruition”.
Mr Miller added: “Many projects around the country have fallen by the wayside and never been resumed.”
Kersten England, the new chief executive of the local authority, said: “Some people really kept their faith in the project when not everyone did.
“Confidence and belief goes a long way in terms of regeneration and growth. That’s not naive, that’s tenacity and determination.”
She singled out her predecessor Tony Reeves who played a key role in helping developers to resume work in 2014 after it was mothballed in 2010.
Gary Peacock, general manager at the neighbouring Midland Hotel, said: “It is a new start. It is an opportunity for people in Bradford to be rightly proud of the city centre again. It is nothing more than Bradford deserves.”
He said there is a lot of business interest in the surrounding streets, particularly from food and beverage operators.
Mr Peacock added: “Is it the panacea to solve all the problems of Bradford? No, it’s a shopping centre.
“But it comes with a message of hope for the future, both economically and socially.”