Victoria Gate is not only complete, it’s open to the public – but before you head over, we’ve got the lowdown on what you can expect for the city’s newest shopping centre…
For the last four years, we’ve followed the progress of the Victoria Gate development, watching as one of the iconic bookends (and yes, Hoagy’s) was demolished to make way for the £165 million shopping centre. But our wait is finally over, because Victoria Gate officially opened its doors at 10am on Thursday 20th October 2016. Find out what awaits within – and what is still to come.
Victoria Gate is the only major retail development to open this year. It has 42,000 square metres of retail and leisure space, in addition to the 24,200 square metre flagship John Lewis store, with even more coming when they finally get onto the second stage. The design, which is by architecture firm ACME, takes its inspiration from the city’s history.
Take the five storey John Lewis store for example. The intricate crisscross pattern made of polished and acid-etched concrete takes its lead from the woven cloth made in our mills all those years ago, and the arcade that surrounds it is equally obsessed with the past. It’s a modern reinterpretation of Victorian architecture, built on the design principles that Sir Reginald Blomfield laid out in the 1920s (he’s the man behind the London’s Regent Street).
“One of Leeds’ outstanding features is the spectacular group of shopping arcades built at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. We wanted to recreate this with Victoria Gate and visually connect it to the Victoria Quarter. The existing shopping arcades are truly iconic thanks to the incredible attention and special features which we have incorporated into Victoria Gate, which include the pilasters, signage, flooring, lighting, window displays and roofing,” James Bailey, General Manager at Victoria Leeds, told us.
Those standout features are noticeable as soon as you walk into Victoria Gate. The storefronts are made with panels of curved glass, giving it a distinctively modern feel, but your eye will soon be drawn upwards. Like its sister arcade, Victoria Gate has a statement roof, with 1,030 diamond shaped panels of glass set within an intricate steel structure that culminates in a beautiful roof light. Look down and you’ll be equally impressed – the herringbone floor is made with 30,000 granite tiles in 13 colours.
Outside the unusual pleated brick facade is the result of some serious tech – they’ve used BIM software Revit along with 3D modelling and manufacturing software to create an intricate pattern of 360,000 individually drawn and located bricks. And if you walk round to the car park, you’ll be greeted by the 228 twisted metal panels that make up its exterior.
This is the bit you’ve been waiting for – the shops you will now find in Victoria Gate. 23 stores have been confirmed, and of those, 17 of them are new to Leeds. John Lewis is obviously the most talked about. Covering five storeys and 24,200 square metres, it’s now their flagship store in the North, with a focus on giving customers an unforgettable experience – and you can feel it as soon as you walk through the door.
This is a statement store, extravagantly decked out, with all the modern luxuries including an indoor beauty spa offering over 120 treatments and an innovative new coffee experience that will give you a chance to try three rare brews. They’ll also have personal stylists on-hand to help, along with home design, nursery and lingerie experts, all of which will be happy to help you find the perfect piece.
“My team and I are delighted to welcome customers through our doors for the first time this week and serve the people of Leeds,” James Prince, Head of the John Lewis Leeds branch, told us. “It’s our most service and experiential-led shop to date, as we continue to offer more for customers that can’t be replicated online.”
John Lewis will be injecting a little bit of Yorkshire into their new store. You’ll find 120 products from 11 Yorkshire suppliers here, including The Harrogate Candle Company, Masons Yorkshire Gin and Martha and Hepsie, giving it a distinctly ‘local’ feel. “We know that our customers are interested in the provenance of products and as a British retailer, we’re proud to support British design and quality by sourcing locally,” Anna Rigby, Head of Buying for Home Accessories and Gifts at John Lewis, told us.
But while John Lewis may be the biggest store to open in Victoria Gate, it is by no means the only one. Anthropologie are opening their first store in North and their tenth in the UK, bringing their beautiful mix of clothing, accessories, gifts and home décor to the city – at 805 square metres, they have the biggest store in the arcade, after John Lewis, of course. & Other Stories aren’t far behind, with a 735 square metre shop that’s packed full of women’s fashion essentials, taking you from tops and dresses to shoes and accessories.
Bailey Nelson are one of the more recent additions and also one of the most exciting, because this will be their first store outside London. The British brand specialises in beautifully designed, hand-finished glasses, with a focus on quality that runs from the service right through to the end result. They’ll be joined by Cos – the luxury fashion brand will be opening its second store in the North, with a collection of modern, functional designs for men, women and children.
There’s certainly no shortage of fashion in Victoria Gate, with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger offering up their signature collection of designer threads, while Russell & Bromley add their stylish footwear into the mix and Aspinal of London bring quality leather bags and accessories to the table. For the guys, you’ve got modern tailoring from Diverso, Gant and Hackett, while the ladies can look forward to elegant casuals and glamorous evening wear at Ghost, with statement lingerie at Honey Birdette.
You’ll also find a duo of delectable stores in Victoria Gate for the tea and coffee lovers among you. Australian tea brand T2 are opening their first store in the North, and it will be rammed full of drinkable delights, with a vast array of loose tea and fruit tisanes for you to choose from, as well as a tasting station to try it out. Meanwhile, Nespresso will be bringing their famous coffee machines to the city, for those of you who want a quality brew at home.
For something a little bit different, head to Neom Organics. You’ll find a selection of bath oils, body washes, lotions, oils and scrubs at their new Leeds store, which is only the second in the UK. Victoria Gate will also be home to The White Company, Joules and Cath Kidston on opening, although you’re probably already familiar with these brands, as they’re no strangers to Leeds – and there’ll also be a Christmas pop-up from Harvey Nichols.
The bars & restaurants
Of course, it’s not just shops. Victoria Gate will also be home to a medley of restaurants, bars and cafes. They’ve got what feels like the five hundredth Pret A Manger in the city, but that’s not the exciting bit, because Cau opened its 485 square metre restaurant on the second floor, with its meat-centric offering of steaks, burgers and more. It’s said that the Sunday roast is the stuff legends are made of – we’ll be putting that rumour to the test ourselves.
That’s not the only new restaurant either, Le Pain Quotidien opened its second restaurant outside of London and first in the North in Victoria Gate. The Belgian restaurant and boulangerie will be serving breads and pastries alongside hot dishes, salads, tartines and frittatas, all made fresh daily using organic and local produce where possible. This will be followed in 2017 with one of the most anticipated additions to the shopping centre – the new D&D rooftop restaurant. The details are still under wraps, but we do know that it will be Asian themed, with the same focus on creative cooking that you see in Angelica and Crafthouse.
There is one billed addition that you won’t find at Victoria Gate though – famed champagne bar Searcys was meant to be opening in John Lewis, but it’s now been confirmed that they won’t be taking the space as planned. Watch this space for updates on what’s going to take its place.
The super casino
You’ve probably heard about the new super casino that’s opening at Victoria Gate – well, it’s not open yet, but it is on the way. Look up, and you can see where it will be – one of the arcades exudes a purple glow, that’s because the sunlight is blocked by the building above, and that, my friends, is where the casino will be.
Once complete, Victoria Gate Casino will cover a massive 4,645 square metres, making it the biggest casino in the North. It’ll hold up to 1,400 people, welcoming them in to enjoy one of the biggest poker rooms in the country, as well as 24 gaming tables, 140 slot machines and 80 electronic table games. But it’s not just for gambling – the new casino will also be home to wall-to-wall screens, showing the latest match, as well as two bars, a restaurant and a function room.
“The Victoria Gate Casino is set to provide a valuable boost for the local economy with the creation of more than 200 jobs, something that the Victoria Gate team is passionate about,” Robin Dobson, Director of Retail Development at Hammerson, told us. “We’re looking forward to welcoming the casino later this year to enjoy the mixed entertainment offer that it will add to Leeds’ new leading retail, dining and leisure destination.”Cover image copyright Andrew McCaren.