Leeds is spearheading the ‘revival of retail’ across the country, according to the boss of the Trinity Leeds development.
The £350m city centre site is the only major retail development under construction in the UK and the largest project of its kind in western Europe.
Development director Andrew Dudley told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “People said we were mad to embark on this but the proof is in the pudding.
“Before it was built, our research found that Leeds was the place that most retailers wanted to be. And that’s bar none.
“Leeds and the scheme will be pushing retail forward and reviving it.
“It will give the city the chance to fight back against the economic downturn.”
The scheme, which is spread across three of the busiest shopping streets in Leeds including Briggate, Albion Street and Commercial Street, is expected to attract 23 million visitors in its first year.
Mr Dudley, who has worked on the British Museum and on a similar scheme in Cardiff, added: “I have done a couple of these types of projects now but I am most excited about this.
“I can’t think of a scheme of this scale that is built so central to a city.
“The quality of food hasn’t been seen in a shopping centre before, plus the impressive digital aspect offers a completely new approach.
“It has been an enormous privilege to deliver something like this.
“When I see the reaction of people who walk in here it really touches me.
“You know you’ve created something special.”
Last month it was announced that the 1m sq ft scheme was already 90 per cent let.
Mr Dudley added: “We have had even more interest since then.”
Around 1,000 workmen are currently on site, busily preparing for the grand opening on March 21.
No celebrities are lined up for the shopping centre’s unveiling and Mr Dudley said owners Land Securities are keen to keep it a classy event.
“We don’t have a celebrity name”, he said.
“Rather we want to get important Leeds representatives and keep the focus on the quality of the environment and the quality retailers.”
Trinity Leeds will have 120 shops and restaurants, with flagship stores for Superdry, Hollister, Mango, H&M, Next and River Island.
The new retail development will also be home to two rooftop D&D London restaurants and bars.