A LABYRINTH of modern bars, cafes and shops set in underground tunnels beneath Bradford city centre attracted thousands of people eager to see the new Sunbridgewells development.

The doors were finally thrown open at 10am on Saturday following a £1.9 million investment of the historic complex built underneath Sunbridge Road, Upper Millergate and Ivegate.

By late afternoon thousands had been through the doors with reports it was "packed" by tea time.

The opening event showcased the first phase which will incorporate five bars and14 shops selling things from fashion to sweets, art and photographs, coffee and gifts. A number have already opened, offering people a taste of further things to come.

More than 500 antique pieces including road and railway signs have been donated by Bradford Museums and Art Galleries. There is even a wall display dedicated to Rimmingtons Pharmacy including prescriptions books and old apothecary bottles, as well as a “Heath Robinson-type” display of glass jars and pipework.

The development has been privately funded and increased by £1m to £1.9m after the space doubled to 24,000 square feet.

Developer Graham Hall said he was relieved to have finally opened.

“It is a relief it is finally here and it is so good to see so many people coming to have a look. I think it will be a huge asset to Bradford and the bars will complement what is already here in the city. It will draw people into the centre.

“The second phase will start after Christmas and will involve bringing the Rose & Crown pub back to life which has been land-locked for more than 90 years. There is also going to be a restaurant at the far side.

“It has been a huge undertaking, not least the two-and-half-thousand tonnes of rubble that had to be brought out by hand. It’s also good that we are showcasing something that a lot of people didn’t know was here.

“There are also five booths which will attract people who want to try out a retail idea for a week or a month without having to outlay a lot of money.”

Bradford couple Michelle O’Brien and Tom Holdsworth were very impressed with the complex.

“It’s amazing; I love it,” said Miss O’Brien. I work in Bradford but I’ve worked all over in places like London and Cambridge and there is nothing like this there.”

Her partner added: “It will be great for small businesses too with the small shops dotted around. The craft beers and food will attract a lot of people too. I really hope it does well. It looks great.”

Visitor Ian Harper added: “The first impressions are good. It’s very different and all part of the changing face of the city.”

The owners of the small businesses inside the complex were equally enthusiastic.

Luca Di Francesco, manager of Sarah’s cakes and coffee shop said it was an exciting time. “It has been good to see so many people come on opening day and we are really excited about the venture.

Thomas Heaton, general manager of Alibi wine, beer and cocktail bar added: “This place is a hidden gem. I’ve worked in Leeds for the past 10 years and this development has brought me back to Bradford. I think it’s exciting.”

Artist Glenn Hustler, 32, who has opened Hustler By Name arts and photographic shop said he was nervous and excited.

“It is my first business which I’ve been building for a couple of years so I hope it goes well.”

Former Kirkgate market stall holder Hannah Racher has opened Skulep Boutique.

“I love it here. I was in Kirkgate for three years so to have my own shop with a door and a window is wonderful. I love the the whole atmosphere of the place and I know a lot of people have been talking about it.”

A preview VIP event took place on Friday evening and on Saturday the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Geoff Reid was invited to view the new city attraction.