The largest urban shopping center in Europe opened on Tuesday in an area of east London that is getting a facelift in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics.
Westfield Stratford City features more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels and Britain’s largest casino. The mall cost an estimated £1.45 billion to build and hundred of people lined up outside waiting to get the first glimpse on opening day.
The Australian owners are confident that they can beat the retail gloom as the UK’s economy remains stifled. Westfield Stratford City’s sister site in west London was previously the largest shopping center in Europe and opened during the depth of the 2009 recession – yet it managed to attract an impressive 23 million visitors in its first year alone.
The Stratford site is being seen as a cornerstone of the Olympic Park as spectators arriving for 2012’s Games will have to walk through the mall to reach the sports venues. A high-speed train will be brining 25,000 Olympic spectators an hour to Stratford International station where they will be greeted by a row of shops and restaurants.
Located in an area with unemployment levels far above the national average, Westfield Stratford City has created 10,000 new jobs.
The mayor of the borough of Newham, Robin Wales, said, “Westfield represents more than just bricks, mortar and fabulous shops and restaurants, it has been instrumental in helping us to transform the lives of our residents by providing them with employment and jobs they can turn into fulfilling and rewarding careers.”
Due to the mall’s proximity to the Olympic Park, additional security precautions will be required during the Games. The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games said it will be operating checks on vehicles entering the public car park at the mall until the end of the Games.
Source: Google News