Victoria Gate, Leeds' newest shopping centre, will open its doors this autumn and, I have to say, I'm extremely excited.
It's not just the fact that the city will see the opening of yet another shopping centre (which is always a good thing in my book!), but that it will bring something to Leeds that it hasn't seen before: John Lewis.
Whilst John Lewis is known as a retail giant, it also has a proven track record of adding significant socio-economic value to the areas where it has stores. From helping to regenerate specific regions, to changing public perceptions of cities and towns, there seems to be a range of benefits of having a John Lewis in your local area.
We've heard about the famous "Waitrose effect"?, which has been reported by the likes of The Telegraph
, This is Money
and Daily Mail
, stating that living near a Waitrose store can add almost £40,000 to your house price.
I think the same can be said of its sister brand, John Lewis. Whenever a new store opens, the surrounding areas of that store often experience some kind of positive impact. And this is a result of the John Lewis Partnership working collectively to enhance the areas in which it operates.
This theory has been proven in a report which examines the various benefits Waitrose and John Lewis
can bring to towns and cities.
In Leicester, for example, it was believed by those responsible for developing the city centre that John Lewis would be a key step in providing a retail offer that would help it compete with other nearby cities.
And, following the opening of the John Lewis in Highcross shopping centre, 60% of businesses in the area argued the image of the city had improved as a result.
The opening of the store also helped to drive regeneration in the Highcross area, including the development of a new £25m complex of shops and flats.
John Lewis had a similar impact in Liverpool when in 2008 it relocated its store to new shopping centre Liverpool One, as part of the city's regeneration strategy. The opening of the new store helped drive over eight million visitors to Liverpool One in the first three months.
Also, because the store and Liverpool One had helped to regenerate the area, 75% of businesses reported that the city was becoming a more attractive place to spend time.
It's also worth noting that the average John Lewis store contributes a whopping £9.1m to the local economy through wages to employees, or 'Partners', as they are known.
So, will the "John Lewis effect"? impact Leeds?
Well, it has already signalled an uplift in the local property market, with 780 new apartments
being built near Victoria Gate as part of a £6m scheme.
A budget of £150m has been allocated by the Local Enterprise Partnership and Leeds City College for a new multi-storey campus, which will sit across from Victoria Gate. This is part of a masterplan to grow the area as an educational and cultural quarter.
Nearby, Quarry Hill is also seeing a major development - a £150m scheme to further revitalise the cultural quarter
and benefit the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Leeds College of Music.
As well as influencing regeneration in the area, it is likely there will be a substantial rise in visitors to the city as a result of Victoria Gate. We've already experienced the effect of Trinity Leeds, which in 2013 welcomed a staggering 132,000 visitors on its launch day alone and has seen an estimated 23 million a year since.
As soon as it opened, it was quickly acknowledged by Welcome to Yorkshire and Leeds City Council
that Trinity Leeds was helping to boost city centre footfall and add so much to the city. Victoria Gate will surely give visitors even more reasons to venture to Leeds.
So, it's clear that Victoria Gate and John Lewis will be responsible not only for a major uplift in visitors to Leeds, but also a significant regeneration of a somewhat neglected area of the city.
It's already starting to inspire new developments and regeneration nearby, so it will be interesting to see what it can achieve when it actually opens later this year.
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