Looking ahead to Leeds Victoria Gate phase two

LEADING THE WAY: Victoria Gate manager, James Bailey
LEADING THE WAY: Victoria Gate manager, James Bailey
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Just five weeks since the hugely-anticipated Victoria Gate scheme launched – and already the team behind it are preparing for phase two.

Following the success of the £165m scheme so far, developer Hammersons has turned its attentions to what will happen next at the centre and also to re-vitalising the surrounding area.

Discussions are already taking place with brands about filling the few remaining vacant units and announcements are expected to be made within the next few weeks.

James Bailey, Victoria Gate, centre manager, said: “We are talking to some really exciting brands and some that wanted to see it open before they would commit and we are confident we will have some positive announcements in the very near future.”

Beyond that, the casino is due to open in January, and at 1,400 capacity, will be the biggest in the north of England.

After that, two roof-top restaurants, yet to be confirmed, will open in spring.

After years of planning and legal wranglings, phase one had to be re-worked and plans to breathe new life into the Eastgate, Templar Street and Edward Street areas, plus the car parks, had to be put back.

But, following the unprecedented success of Victoria Gate – 2,000 visitors in the first hour and over a half a million in the first week – boosted by the biggest flagship John Lewis store outside of London, attention has now returned to it.

Mr Bailey added: “We have the biggest collection of premium and luxury brands outside of London, we are third in the retail hierarchy in the UK, and there is no other development that you could compare this to.

“It puts Leeds on the map and that is a big unique selling point against other major cities.

“It is important we understand how the brands respond to the trading environment and how that impacts on phase two moving forward.

“Our focus has been on supporting retailers and targeting Christmas but again we are confident we will be 
able to make some announcements post Christmas with regards to the scheme for phase two.”

While looking forward, Mr Bailey also reflected on the last month since the launch on October 20.

He said the opening had gone as they expected and hoped that it would but were particularly pleased at the retail performance after that.

Traders had maintained a position of strong sales and also several brands, including Aspinalls, Neon and Cos, reported their best brand launch with Victoria Gate.

Recalling the launch, he told City Buzz that after so much build-up and hype it was a “surreal” day.

Mr Bailey said: “It was surreal, you count down the last few weeks, then wake up on the Thursday and it is opening in a couple of hours.

“But credit to the team and unsung heroes, cleaners and security, who were ready for customers that morning.

“It is the biggest scheme I have worked on and the one I have had the most confidence in, in terms of it really flying.

“The positivity and anticipation within the city in the build-up gave me a good feeling we would hit the ground running and perform strong and nothing has changed that – we have created a scheme that Leeds can be really proud of .”