As BT is the official communications services partner for London 2012, I’m fortunate enough to hop on a bus tour of the Olympic Park this snowy morning. What is immediately clear even through the misty windows of the bus is the incredible amount that’s already been achieved at the Park. The area, the size of London’s Hyde Park, was a forgotten and polluted backwater that’s now taking magnificent shape and is currently crowned by the wafting beauty of Zaha Hadid’s iconic Aquatics Centre roof. The roof itself weighs 2,800 tonnes, spans 160 metres and is supported in only three locations.
As I listen to the announcer tell me about the 2,000 newts that were temporarily relocated to an undisclosed holding area, my attention is caught by another habitat that’s been created in front of the hyper-connected regional transport station. It’s the enormous new retail centre.
Westfield Stratford also rises
Westfield Stratford City is 1.9 million square feet of almost unclaimed retail space. Anchor tenants Marks and Spencer and John Lewis / Waitrose have yet to be joined by any other major retailer. Recent mentions of Primark in Retail Week and The Independent indicate an interest in a 70,000 sq ft venture. Of course since the recession landlords generally have experienced an understandably cool reception for their retail properties. But perhaps this time the retailers should take closer look.
Will retailers go for gold at Stratford?
What’s uncontested is that while the Olympic Delivery Authority is on target to hand over the Park to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), right next door, the massive retail opportunity sits untenanted. Up to three hundred stores could open for business in Westfield during the autumn of 2011, at the moment there are just three. On the strength of what’s been achieved so far, the London Games will be a tremendous success on many fronts. Not least the legacy of the Park and it’s many facilities.
Let’s hope that our UK retailers will include Stratford in their plans to give East Londoners a retail legacy, and show the world what world-class retailing looks like.