DEVELOPER Westfield announced today it would start work “unconditionally” on the long-awaited Broadway shopping centre in Bradford.
The centre, predicted to create 2,500 retail jobs with another 1,500 during its two-year construction, has been held up for more than a decade by uncertainty over the city’s economy - despite the site having been cleared in 2004, leaving an unsightly 10-acre “hole” in the heart of the city centre.
At one stage it was occupied by protestors angry about the lack of progress.
But today the Australian developer said “final site enabling works” were taking place in advance of major construction next month.
Westfield will continue as the site’s developer but has sold its ownership to the London-based real estate investment management firm Meyer Bergman.
The mall would open in time for Christmas 2015, Westfield said.
The 570,000 sq ft development - a scaled-down version of the project Westfield originally proposed - will include a 106,000 sq ft Debenhams department store and a 63,000 sq ft Marks & Spencer, plus 70 more shops, restaurants and cafes, including Next, River Island, Top Shop, Top Man and Sainsbury’s. It is understood around half of the units are currently let.
Marks & Spencer’s existing Bradford store in Darley Street, towards the top of the city centre, is unlikely to remain open, and Bradford Council has said it is “working hard” to mitigate the effects of the new centre on that area.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I am delighted to hear of the implementation of the £260 million Broadway Project. Projects like these stand as a great example to others to show that the regional growth fund has been used to attract the necessary private sector investment to deliver significant and positive change in our cities.
“We welcome the commitment Westfield has shown in the UK with its previous regeneration work having invested £3.5 billion and created 25,000 new UK jobs already, and we look forward to the realisation of its plans for a further £2.5 billion to be invested in the UK which we understand will create a further 14,000 new UK jobs.”
Michael Gutman, Westfield Managing Director UK/Europe and New Markets said: “Westfield is delighted to announce the start of construction having remained steadfastly committed to delivering the Bradford development following cessation of work in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis.
“Westfield has worked intensively with Bradford Council, the Government and Meyer Bergman to attract new retailers, create new jobs and ensure that this development is built for the city and the people of Bradford.”
Speaking at the site today, council leader David Green said: “This sends out a signal about confidence in Bradford, it sends out a message that people can come to Bradford and invest working with the council and other private sector partners and we will see, I think, a growth in the city’s economy on the back of today’s announcement and a growth in interest in investing in Bradford.
“It isn’t a solution to the challenges we face in Bradford but it is a major step forward along that road.”
Both Westfield and the council have faced criticism since work came to a halt at the site in 2008 as the credit crunch bit and the appetite for investment in new retail developments disappeared.
A huge swathe of buildings had already been demolished and the decision to bring work to a halt left a large section of the city centre as a boarded-up building site.
Duncan Bower, director of development at Westfield, said: “We don’t want to be too celebratory about this because this is the restart of construction that ceased for a period of time a few years ago and the celebration should really come at the end when we open.
“We are a company that want to do things, mothballing a site really does not help us. However we understand people’s frustration with those kind of events but I can reassure people in Bradford nobody has been more frustrated than Westfield.
“It has taken time, we appreciate their patience and now we just want to get on and complete the job.”
Westfield operates 119 shopping centres across the world including London, Derby, Birmingham, Australia, New Zealand and the US.