Will the £260 million Broadway Shopping Centre change Bradford’s fortunes?

The long-awaited 260 million Broadway Shopping Centre officially opens on November 5th

The long-awaited 260 million Broadway Shopping Centre officially opens on November 5th - Credit: Joan Russell

One of Yorkshire’s struggling cities begins to see signs of recovery with increased confidence and new investment, as David Marsh reports. Photographs by Joan Russell.

The National Media Museum stands behind the statue of famous son J B Priestley

The National Media Museum stands behind the statue of famous son J B Priestley - Credit: Joan Russell

Bradford’s Bouncing Back – that was the bold claim of a 1980s’ marketing campaign which for a time created quite a buzz about West Yorkshire’s second biggest city. Unfortunately that bounce rather petered out as Bradford, in common with many other great northern town and cities, struggled with a range of social and economic problems as traditional industries declined. But on a sunny late summer’s day Bradford city centre is a hive of activity and there are clear signs that the future looks brighter, not least because of Westfield’s new long-awaited £260 million Broadway Shopping Centre which officially opens on November 5th.

It covers 10 acres, provides 590,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space and is expected to create about 2,500 jobs. There are more than 70 stores, restaurants and cafes including leading high street names such as Marks and Spencer, Next and Debenhams plus 1,300 parking spaces.

It’s all a far cry from a few years ago when there was widespread concern in the city about the flagship project’s lack of progress. By 2006 buildings had been demolished to make way for the new centre but it fell victim to the 2008 recession and credit crunch and the scheme was mothballed, leaving Bradford with a partially-excavated development site in a key part of its city centre. The site was made into a temporary park until work got underway at the start of last year.

With work now nearing completion, there is a strong sense of optimism surrounding the project which is bringing new retailers to Bradford and helping to raise the city’s profile. A report earlier this year to Bradford Council’s regeneration and environment committee said Broadway was already having a positive effect. The number of businesses in the city is increasing and planning applications are on the rise.

Bradford's City Park pool and fountains

Bradford's City Park pool and fountains - Credit: Joan Russell

Myf Ryan, Westfield director of marketing, said: ‘After a lot of hard work and support from the Bradford community, we are now just a few months away from opening our doors to the public for the very first time. I’m delighted that the centre is now well over 80 per cent let and we have some fantastic retailers lined up for shoppers in Bradford, including our anchor retailers M&S, Debenhams and Next, as well as some new retailers for Bradford, such as schuh, Paperchase and Superdry, and Bradford’s first food hall featuring names such as Taco Bell and Love Koffee.

‘Securing these retailers is yet another vote of confidence in both Broadway and Bradford and will not only bring more choice to shoppers but will also provide 2,500 new job opportunities. The centre will also help deliver a significant boost to the local and regional economy whilst continuing to attract inward investment for the city’s regeneration.’

In 2009 Bradford was awarded the title of UNESCO City of Film, hardly surprising given that it is home to the popular National Media Museum, where a £780,000 major improvement scheme is just about complete. The UK’s first IMAX cinema was opened at the museum and is now being upgraded to a digital system. Over three decades after its opening as the National Museum of Photography, Film and TV – it was renamed the National Media Museum in 2006 – the attraction continues to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

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Jo Quinton-Tulloch, director of the National Media Museum, said: ‘There are a lot of reasons to be excited about developments both here at the museum and in Bradford generally. We’ve had a fantastic summer at the museum with a 25 per cent increase in visitors compared to last year, which we’re delighted about. And with the launch of our new state-of-the-art, upgraded IMAX cinema, we’ll be bringing the biggest releases on the biggest screen to film-lovers in Bradford and beyond. On top of that we’ve got an exciting line-up of exhibitions and science festivals throughout the autumn to look forward to.’

Events and festivals are also playing an important role in Bradford’s success. According to the council, events at City Park in Centenary Square have over the past three years attracted over 500,000 people and generated over £7million of additional spending. Over the next few months the park will host a variety of events including firework displays, acrobatics and live light shows.

Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford City Council, said: ‘We as a city and the wider district are seeing a sea-change in the perceptions of Bradford both from the public and investors. There is an increasing confidence about the future.

‘We still have a long way to go but the signs are that we are on the right track. The city centre is getting a lot of attention because of Westfield but we are also seeing regeneration in Shipley, Baildon and Keighley. Add in the attractions of Bronte Country and Saltaire and it’s clear Bradford is a great city in which to invest and live.’

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