BRADFORD’s Kirkgate Shopping Center will be demolished as part of a major town center transformation plan.
Bradford Council has just announced that it has bought the nearly 50-year-old shopping center for £15.5million with a view to demolishing it in the coming years as part of its long-running plan to create a “urban village”.
READ MORE: Primark’s Bradford branch to move to former Debenhams unit on Broadway
As part of the reshuffle, retail giant Primark will move from Kirkgate to the former Debenhams unit of the Broadway shopping centre, with other retailers offering help to move into the many other vacant units in the town centre.
Once the brutalist Kirkgate center is flattened, its place will be taken by green space, housing and small commercial spaces.
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The scheme, which could be seen as a huge gamble by Council, will be tied to housing projects at the Oastler Market site.
This building will also be demolished once the under construction Darley Street Market – opposite Kirkgate – opens.
The plans come at a time when empty store units are becoming an increasingly common sight in the city center.
The Kirkgate Center opened in 1976 – then called Arndale Center – and has been dubbed Bradford’s “space-age mall”.
It controversially replaced the city’s much-loved Victorian Kirkgate Market, which was demolished to make way for the then-modern shopping centre.
It is currently home to 46 stores and catering businesses, including Boyes, Sports Direct, New Look, Yours and Card Factory – as well as Primark.
Many townspeople have fond memories of the centre, from Santa’s visit to Kirkgate Grotto to Saturday shopping.
However, its austere design compared to the city’s grand Victorian buildings has earned it a reputation as one eyesore among many.
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In recent years, the center has suffered from a high number of vacant units, in part due to competition from The Broadway, which opened in 2015, and changing buying habits.
Plans to flatten the center were revealed by Council bosses during a briefing with the Telegraph & Argus, where Council bosses unveiled an early draft of what the reshaped city center would look like.
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The center is not expected to close anytime soon, with Primark unlikely to move to Broadway until 2024.
The council says the changes will ‘create a sustainable, future-oriented town center where the business, retail, residential and leisure sectors work in unison to deliver transformational regeneration’.
Councilor Alex Ross Shaw, the council’s executive member for planning, regeneration and transport, said with retail increasingly concentrating around Broadway and more high street chains disappearing British cities, a change in this sector of the city was necessary.
He said: ‘With Kirkgate demolished, the town’s village can expand. It will become a mix of green spaces and different types of housing.
READ MORE: 1972: A Last Look at Kirkgate Market
“It will be led by housing, but with commercial spaces on the ground floor of some of the new buildings. There will be a lot more green infrastructure than in current subdivisions.
He said the aim was to avoid the cheap, shoddy housing that has plagued the city center for years, adding: ‘We need to get a good mix of housing.
“It has to be something different; we don’t just want one bed apartments or studios.
“We want more families and more young professionals.
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“We need more housing to be built on brownfields, and that’s what it does. We need to make sure it’s visually fantastic, not just huge apartment buildings. It will be a high quality development that will introduce something new to the city.
In addition to the space that will be left over from the demolition of the Oastler Center and nearby Westgate parking lot, the changes will create 13 acres of development space in the city.
The planned City Village will have up to 1,000 homes and will include the ongoing redevelopment of High Point.
The City Village map also includes other sites that have been reserved for housing for years, including a number of council-owned car parks off Westgate.
Asked what will happen to the other Kirkgate tenants, Cllr Ross Shaw said Council staff would work with them to “see what their ambitions are”.
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He added: “If they want to stay in the city center we will try to find a place for them to go.”
Ben Middleton, deputy director of estates and property, said he didn’t want retailers in the center to “freak out” – and there would be a period of around two years before Primark moved and the work to close the center does not begin.
Until then, Bradford Council will operate the center as normal.
He expects many of Kirkgate’s larger retailers to move to units on Broadway, adding: “We want to focus our premium retail offering in this part of town.”
READ MORE: The Broadway says ‘new announcements’ should be made this summer
He added: “Some of the tenants will want to move to Bradford. With others their leases expiring within the next couple of years, some could watch all that’s happening in the retail industry and choose to retire.
The Council said construction could start by 2025, but Cllr Ross Shaw says a challenge will be making the huge changes without causing disruption during Bradford’s year of culture city, also in 2025 .
He added, “We will have to revisit the timescales to see how we deliver the work with City of Culture underway. It is unrealistic to think that we will have it demolished and rebuilt before 2025, it is something that we will have to look into.
“The city of culture is the key priority for us, so we will work around that. By 2025 Darley Street Market, Bradford Live and One City Park will be open, so the city will look very different.
Councilor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said: “We are heading into a very different post-pandemic world.
“Good local authorities across the country use their assets and resources to shape their local economy to make it vibrant and sustainable in the future.
“That’s what we’re doing here in Bradford by supporting this major anchor site.”
Ian Ward, Managing Director of The Broadway, said: “After working closely with Bradford Council and Primark, we are delighted to announce that Primark will open a 55,000 square foot unit in the former Debenhams store.
“The retail industry has really felt the effects of the pandemic and I’m happy to say, as we enter the second half of 2022, we’re definitely coming out the other side more positive than ever. The Broadway will announce a host of new retailers before the end of the year to further support the local economy.”
Kari Rodgers, UK Retail Director at Primark, said: “We are delighted to be moving to The Broadway, which puts us in the heart of Bradford. The new store will put us in a prime location to give customers more of what they love.
“We look forward to starting work on the new store and welcoming new and old customers through the doors.”
NEC Group, which will lead the Bradford Live underdevelopment, welcomed the plans.
Guy Dunstan, Managing Director of NEC Group Ticketing and Arenas, said: “It will be fantastic to see the City Village project come to life, bringing with it a host of new growth opportunities and showcasing Bradford’s ambitious regeneration plans.
“We are really delighted to be part of the city’s regeneration projects ourselves, as we look forward to the opening of Bradford Live. We know these latest developments will fit perfectly with our new world-class site in the heart of the city.
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Kirkgate Shopping Center to be demolished as part of major city center changes