IT was a poignant juxtaposition of Leeds’s past, present and future.
As the diggers descended on the site of the £150m Victoria Gate development, parts of the city’s historic skyline could be seen behind the huge mounds of rubble.
The piledriving process started on-site today (Tuesday) in blazing sunshine. It will set down the deep foundations to support the city’s flagship John Lewis store.
The lady chosen to front today’s milestone moment was Margery Davey, 70, from Adel.
The charity campaigner and fundraiser won a Victoria Gate ‘groundbreaker’ competition to find a local person to push the button on the first piling rig to start work on the foundations.
“This area near the market has always been a rather derelict area of Leeds, so I think this is really going to rejuvenate it,” Margery said, after enjoying her first ever photoshoot.
“I’ve got lots of friends who are ardent shoppers who are very excited at the idea of a John Lewis. I think it will elevate this area and will be a landmark for the city, amongst all the old buildings as well.
“We should hold onto some of our old buildings because they are part of our heritage, but there’s plenty of space in Leeds for state of the art as well, and the building will look magnificent.”
Among the guests on site today was Peter Cole, chief investment officer of developer Hammerson, who said: “The official groundbreaking ceremony is a significant moment for the Victoria Gate team and the city.
“Piling is happening, the frame is going up in August, John Lewis will start in August.
“Leeds is a special project for us. We have been working 10 years to get here. This is also a slightly different project, we are pushing the boundaries. There’s a lot of heritage and history in Leeds, and we are trying to build on that.
“It’s a very important day. The sun is shining, the scheme is progressing well and two years in September we will be finished.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds city council’s cabinet spokesman for transport and the economy, added the day celebrated a “very exciting first phase” of a project that will “transform this part of the city and deliver thousands of jobs”.
CEMENTING THE FUTURE
>The John Lewis foundations will be built on 410 piles which will be filled with concrete. 503 piles will support the arcade.
>Over 5,000 sq metres of concrete will be poured into the piles, enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools.
>The depth of the piling shafts for the foundations totals 12,000m, the equivalent of 30 running tracks,