Well, that was quite spectacular. The great and the good were out in force today as well as half of east London for the opening of the £1.45bn Stratford City shopping centre, a development that Mayor of London Boris Johnson said was triggering the “greatest regeneration in east London since the Middle Ages”.
The excitement even for a wizened old hack like me was palpable. I was there with a film camera and caught up with some of the key personalities who have brought forward the centre. Click here to see
Below are some further thoughts from the day. First and foremost though I think it is fair to say the most returned to theme was what it means for east London and aspirations for rejuvenating the area. I had an interesting chat with Carol Richards, the chaplain for St John’s Church in Stratford town centre, who said that the overriding sentiment is that Stratford City is providing genuine work opportunities for locals in a way that the remainder of the Olympic Park has not done. Anyway here are some additional musings:
The 1.9m sq ft scheme adjacent to the 2012 Olympics Park in Stratford launched at a glitzy event this morning attended by, among others, London mayor Johnson, Westfield’s Lowy family, former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, current Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt, Olympic Park Legacy Company chief executive Baroness Margaret Ford, Newham council mayor Robin Wales, Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green, M&S chief executive Marc Bolland and John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield.
The gathered throng, together with thousands of shoppers who turned up for the opening of Europe’s largest urban mall, were entertained by a live performance from Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger.
The centre will be home more than 300 shops, with anchor stores John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK’s largest casino.
Westfield has consent for more than 1m sq ft of offices at the site and has already completed a 10-storey, 100,000 sq ft block.
Frank Lowy, chairman of Westfield, said he was most proud of what the centre would mean for east London for “generations to come”.
He added: “This will bring economic activity to east London that has been missing.”
Mayor Johnson said the “historic and happy event” was triggering the most significant regeneration in east London since “around 1320”.
Johnson added that shoppers in Paris were already talking about “Le Westfield” where they could buy “Le Ipad for 5% cheaper than they can in Paris”.
Culture minister Jeremy Hunt said that he was extremely pleased that Westfield had decided to “teach the whingeing poms how to shop”.