The scale of construction work on Bradford’s new shopping centre has roused a huge amount of interest in the city’s regeneration, says the leader of the council.
Councillor David Green said although the construction of the Westfield development was always going to lead to further investment, the eagerness of such support had taken the local authority by surprise.
Speaking at the Broadway building site yesterday he said: “It’s great to come on site, this is the first time I’ve actually been on the site since January. To see the progress that’s going on, to see the employment that you can see on site – the job creation and the buzz that it being created by this development with further developments coming off it for the city centre is something that’s been quite remarkable.
“We always knew that we would get further interest in the regeneration of Bradford on the back of Westfield starting, but the speed and the enthusiasm that people are coming forward looking to develop other parts of the city centre has, I think, surprised us.
“We continue to work with Westfield, we’re working closely with them in terms of the local employment clauses in our agreement. We are looking to make sure that Bradford people have got the skills and the training to take the jobs in this centre when it’s built and in other areas and I think that what we’re seeing is, despite the cynicism we’ve heard over the past three or four years, both Westfield, [the investors] Meyer Bergman and Bradford Council are delivering.”
Deputy council leader Imran Hussain said he was excited by the ongoing work.
“I think there’s going to be a fantastic regeneration of the city centre. We’re going to have 2,500 employment opportunities here. That in itself for the city centre and for the district as a whole is fantastic,” he said.
“It will bring a buzz to the city, it will bring a buzz to the district and there will be a knock-on effect across the city and the district.”
Projects announced in recent weeks include hopes to transform a network of tunnels under the city centre into a Victorian-style market featuring shops, bars and restaurants and the rebranding of the lower floors of Arndale House as The Xchange, a modern complex to complement the Broadway shopping centre.
Coun Green said: “I think there will be more announcements in the months to come and I think there will be even more cranes in the air and even more refurbishment going on.”
Coun Hussain added: “Some of us have really worked at this for years now and we’ve had obstacles along the way, but to actually see it... it means a lot to us, it really does, and I know it means a lot to the people of the district.”
A city property agent has hailed the Westfield development for boosting the market – even before construction work started.
Shazad Mahmood, of Eddisons in Little Germany, said he was aware of at least three key deals involving London-based investors completed before work on Westfield started, including the sale of two commercial buildings on Cheapside.
Eddisons is now in discussions with other potential London-based investors as well as several from around the Yorkshire region whose interest has been raised now that Westfield is under way.
He said: “There’s no doubt that potential for deals in the local commercial property market has been lifted because of Westfield. It is a key factor when we are talking with potential investors who are now looking at the city in a different light.
“The city centre growth zone incentives are also proving to be a key draw and the underlying situation has also been boosted by the overall improvement in the economy.
“We are now seeing more interest in the city than at any time in the past two or three years.”