What A Difference A Year Makes

We look at twelve months of Westfield

Opening Day Pictures

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Westfield opened to much fanfare on 30 October 2008 with a day of queues, crowds, speeches, performances and celebrities. But despite attracting thousands of visitors on the first day, the much-feared gridlock on the streets failed to materialise.

However, the arrival of the shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush has caused controversy locally, with residents saying it has attracted crime, and those living in neighbouring streets complaining about Westfield shoppers taking their on-street parking spaces.

In February, an illuminated Westfield sign, erected on the western side of the shopping centre had to come down after an outcry from residents, while plans for roof-top lighting met with stiff resistance from those living nearby. Also controversial was the opening of Burger King on Wood Lane, despite Westfield’s earlier pronouncements that there would be no traditional fast-food outlets at the shopping centre. Just before Westfield opened, Shepherd's Bush lost its sheep when the underpass at the Holland Park roundabout was painted white.

The building of the shopping centre was accompanied by substantial regeneration in the surrounding Shepherd's Bush and White City areas: the new Overground station was a welcome addition, bringing easy access to a host of new destinations. The opening of the new Shepherd's Bush Central line station was also well received, but came after an inconvenient 8-month closure, which some claimed had been completely unnecessary. Residents were also unimpressed by the lack of step-free access, and TfL's intentions over this appeared to come to light in a meeting last December.

White City also got the new Wood Lane Tube station on the Hammersmith and City line, which does include a lift, and a new bus station which has seen a century-old building being brought back into use. The sparkling new library in Wood Lane, meanwhile, has been a big hit with residents.

Westfield Group chairman, Frank Lowy, shrugged off the economic downturn as he addressed the crowds on opening day. But within the first few months, several restaurants on the Southern Terrace had already closed their doors, including Ito, Tibits and Esca. Inside the shopping centre, businesses that fell victim to the recession included maternity store Blooming Marvellous, fashion shop Principles and the Nysa Wine Boutique. Westfield stores that went into administration but survived included children's clothing store Adams, tea and coffee merchants Whittards and the shoe shop, Barratts.

Westfield itself suffered financial losses as a result of the credit crunch: at the beginning of this year, the company announced a 2.2 billion Australian dollar (£1 billion) net loss for the year ending December 31 2008, due to the decreasing value of its shopping malls worldwide and the fall in retail sales. A dispute also erupted between Westfield and some of the company's tenants over service charge costs at the shopping centre. Meanwhile, the future of the top floor was thrown into doubt when Showcase Cinemas, which was supposed to have been opening up for business, was forced to pull out after its American owners ran into financial difficulties.

Vue Entertainment are now due to open a 14-screen cinema complex in February 2010 and Gymbox will open a gym and fitness centre early in the new year.

October 24, 2009