It’s been hailed as the development that could transform the East end of the city, and on its first day open, thousands of shoppers flocked to check out the latest boost to Leeds’s retail reputation.
After years of building, Victoria Gate opened to the public today – a £165 million project that transformed an old car park into another of Leeds’s awesome arcades, but one like no other.
Since moving to Leeds back in April, we have watched the end of the work to bring Victoria Gate to life, and when walking by over the last six months, we have admired the facade of the John Lewis store and wondered how it might look inside on completion.
On hearing that today was opening day, we felt we ought to pay a visit on the way home from work. I think a lot of people had the same idea as us, as the place was bustling with visitors admiring the shops and getting snappy with their camera phones.
And I don’t blame them; as I said, Victoria Gate is unique among its fellow arcades in Leeds, with two arcing streets of stores. The architecture itself is stunning; its honeycomb roof and use of light makes you feel like you have entered a space reminiscent of The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz.
Shopping-wise, perhaps with the exception of the John Lewis department store, most of the new stores stock wears that are a little out of our price range, with brands like Aspinal of London, Ghost, and The White Company.
But, I think this should be good for Leeds, and hopefully will bring more well-off shoppers into the high street to spend their money, which in turn could benefit other businesses.
If you haven’t visited Leeds city centre, then you should, and you should certainly check out the arcades. Each one has its own character and types of shops, ranging from high-end fashion boutiques to quirky independent businesses. I think Victoria Gate will add something to that mix.
My greatest hope for it, however, is that it achieves its aim of helping to regenerate the East of the city, increasing footfall through the brilliant Kirkgate Market, and prompting further development and prosperity.