Workers fencing off entrances to Bradford Urban Garden was a welcome sight in the city centre.
The open space was being sealed-off as Australian developer Westfield reclaimed the site so it can start construction work on its £260 million shopping centre.
The company took over the Broadway location in 2004 with hopes of opening in 2007, but the economic downturn meant the scheme was stalled until preparatory works started at the end of last year.
Bradford Council created Bradford Urban Garden on part of the building site in 2010 and the rest of the land was left undeveloped and became known as the “hole.”
Now the general manager of the neighbouring Midland Hotel Gary Peacock hopes that nickname will disappear as the centre takes shape.
“It’s become a point of reference. People say, ‘It’s the hotel next to the hole in the ground.’ “I try to look for the positive in it, as Oscar Wilde said ‘There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’ I’ve had to look at it from the positive and now there’s going to be no hole in the ground, that’s a big positive.”
Mr Peacock said the shopping centre would make a big difference to the Forster Square hotel, where he has worked at for 11 years.
He said it would make a ‘massive difference in terms of foot traffic on a daily basis’. He said: “Coupled with the fact that we’ve got a couple more thousand people employed in the city centre.”
The hotel has views across the site and Mr Peacock said he would be looking out occasionally to see how building progresses.
He said: “We’re all excited by it. It’s great news for us and for the city centre at long last — it’s nothing more than we deserve.
“We bought the hotel on the back of regeneration in the city centre 14 years ago and I personally have been waiting for 11 years.
“No-one else in West Yorkshire has a Westfield, it puts Bradford firmly on the shopping map. Long-term it will have a positive effect and create more foot traffic.” He said hotel guests would also welcome the building of the centre, which will include Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next.
Westfield’s head of construction, Keith Whitmore, told the Telegraph & Argus last month that people could expect to see things happening “on or around January 6”.
As the construction work gathers pace, up to 2,000 workers are expected on the site with the centre due to open in December, 2015.