BRADFORD’S Kirkgate Shopping Centre will be demolished as part of a huge plan to transform the city centre.

Bradford Council has just announced that it has bought the almost 50-year-old shopping centre for £15.5m with a view to demolishing it in the coming years as part of its long-standing plans to create a “city village”.

READ MORE: Bradford branch of Primark to move to old Debenhams unit in Broadway

As part of the shake-up, retail giant Primark will relocate from Kirkgate into the former Debenhams unit in the Broadway Shopping Centre, with other retailers offered support to move into the city centre’s many other vacant units.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: An early map of what the city centre would look like under the "city village" plansAn early map of what the city centre would look like under the "city village" plans (Image: Bradford Council)

Once the brutalist Kirkgate Centre is flattened, its place will be taken by a green space, housing and small commercial spaces.

MEMORIES: From Arndale Centre to Kirkgate Centre - Bradford's first shopping mall

The scheme, which could be seen as a huge gamble by the Council, will tie in with plans to build housing on the Oastler Market site.

That building will also be demolished once the under-construction Darley Street Market - opposite Kirkgate - opens.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate CentreKirkgate Centre

The plans come at a time when empty shop units are becoming an increasingly common site in the city centre.

The Kirkgate Centre opened in 1976 – then called the Arndale Centre - and was dubbed Bradford’s "space-age shopping centre."

It controversially replaced the city’s much-loved Victorian Kirkgate Market, which was demolished to make way for the then modern shopping centre.

It is currently home to 46 shops and food and drink businesses including Boyes, Sports Direct, New Look, Yours and Card Factory - as well as Primark.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

Many in the city have fond memories of the centre, from visiting Santa in the Kirkgate grotto to spending a Saturday shopping there.

However, its stark design compared to the city’s grand Victorian buildings has earned it the reputation of an eyesore among many.

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In recent years, the centre has suffered from a high number of vacant units, partly due to competition from The Broadway, which opened in 2015, and changing shopping habits.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

The plans to flatten the centre were revealed by Council bosses in a briefing with the Telegraph & Argus, where Council bosses unveiled an early draft of what the reshaped city centre would look like.

READ MORE: Work to transform High Point - Bradford's most divisive building

The centre is not expected to close any time soon, with Primark unlikely to be making to move to Broadway before 2024.

The council claims the changes will "create a forward-looking sustainable city centre where business, retail, residential and leisure sectors work in unison to deliver transformational regeneration."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Empty shops in the Kirkgate Shopping CentreEmpty shops in the Kirkgate Shopping Centre

Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, the Council's executive member for planning, regeneration and transport, said with retail increasingly becoming focused around the Broadway, and more high street chains disappearing from UK towns and cities, a shift in this area of the city was needed.

He said: “With Kirkgate demolished the city village can expand. It will become a mix of green space and different housing types.

READ MORE: 1972: A last look at Kirkgate Market

“It will be housing led, but with commercial space on the ground floors of some of the new buildings. There will be a lot more green infrastructure than in current housing developments.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

He said the aim is to avoid the low cost, low quality housing that has blighted the city centre for years, adding: “We need to get a good housing mix.

“It needs to be something different; we don’t want just one bed flats or bedsits.

“We want more families and more young professionals.

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“We need more housing to be built on brownfield sites, and that is what this is doing. We have to make sure it is visually fantastic, not just huge apartment blocks. It will be a high quality development that will introduce something new to the city.”

Along with the space that will be left by the demolition of the Oastler Centre and neighbouring Westgate car park, the changes will create 13 acres of development space in the city.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

The planned City Village will have up to 1,000 homes, and will include the under construction High Point redevelopment.

The map of the City Village also includes other sites that have been earmarked for housing for years, including a number of council owned car parks off Westgate.

When asked what will happen to the other Kirkgate tenants, Cllr Ross Shaw said Council staff would work with them to “see what their ambitions are.”

READ MORE: Memories of Bradford shopping centres: From Fountains to climbing the wooden hippo

He added: “If they want to stay in the city centre, we’ll try to find them a space to go."

Ben Middleton, assistant director of Estates and Property, said they did not want retailers in the centre to “panic” – and that there would be a period of around two years before Primark moves and work to wind down the centre begins.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Until then Bradford Council will be operating the centre as normal.

He expects many of the bigger name retailers in Kirkgate will relocate to units in the Broadway, adding: “We want to focus our prime retail offer in that part of the city.”

READ MORE: The Broadway says 'new announcements' set to be made this summer

He added: “Some of the tenants will want to relocate in Bradford. With others their leases will expire in the next two years, some may look at all that is happening in the retail sector and choose to retire.”

The Council has said building could start by 2025, but Cllr Ross Shaw says one challenge will be to make the huge changes without causing disruption during Bradford’s City of Culture year, also in 2025.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

He added: “We’ll have to review the time scales to see how we deliver work with City of Culture going on. It is unrealistic to think we’ll have it demolished and all this re-built before 2025, it is something we’ll have to look at.

“City of Culture is the key priority for us, so we’ll work around that. By 2025 Darley Street Market, Bradford Live and One City Park will be open, so the city will look a very different place.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said: "We're heading into a very different world post pandemic.

"Good local authorities up and down the country are using their assets and resources to shape their local economy to make them vibrant and sustainable well into the future.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

"This is what we're doing here in Bradford in taking on this major anchor site."

Ian Ward, General Manager at The Broadway, said: "After working closely with the Bradford Council and Primark, we're delighted to announce Primark will be opening a 55,000 sqft unit in the former Debenhams store.

“The retail industry has really felt the effects of the pandemic and I'm pleased to say as we move into the second half of 2022 that we're definitely emerging from the other side more positive than ever. The Broadway will be announcing a host of new retailers before the end of the year to further bolster the local economy."

Kari Rodgers, UK Retail Director at Primark, said: “We are delighted to be moving into The Broadway, putting us at the heart of Bradford. The new store will put us in a prime location to give customers more of what they love.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kirkgate Shopping CentreKirkgate Shopping Centre

"We’re looking forward to getting to work on the new store and welcoming customers new and old through the doors."

The NEC Group, which will run the under-development Bradford Live, has welcomed the plans.

Guy Dunstan, Managing Director of NEC Group Ticketing and Arenas, said: “It will be fantastic to see the City Village project come to life, bringing with it a wealth of new opportunities for growth and showcasing Bradford’s ambitious regeneration plans.

“We are really excited to be involved within the city’s regeneration projects ourselves, as we look ahead to the opening of Bradford Live. We know these latest developments will sit well alongside our new world-class venue at the heart of the city.” 

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