Behind-the-scenes look as Â£165m Victoria Gate project nears completion
Daylight streams through a colossal circular window above us while 300 workers are busy putting the finishing touches to what will be one of Leeds's biggest ever retail developments.
Sunlight, according to those behind the Victoria Gate scheme, will be key to bringing the £165m project to life.
The window is one of the most eye-catching elements within the two arcades, offering shoppers a glimpse of the sky above and pouring light into the arcades.
A white thatched-type steel frame work supports the glass, which will be surrounded with LED lights stretching out along the arcade to mimic the light outside.
Facade manager Louis Mansfield said: “The roof really has the wow factor for me.
“It has the appearance of bringing the outside inside.
“The LED lights will run all along the ceiling. It will look very impressive when it’s done.”
The striking development includes two arcades covered with a glass roof – similar to its sister scheme the Victoria Quarter.
The finishing touches are being made to the construction side of the project, with just weeks before shop fitters move in.
Curved glass shop fronts are being put into place and the granite floor tiles – shipped all the way from China – are now being laid
“The tiles have already been laid in out in sequence in the factory then numbered and brought over here to relay them in exactly the same order,” Louis explains.
“It’s just like a very big jigsaw puzzle.”
More twisted aluminium fins will be added to the car park at Eastgate in the coming weeks, with each strand carefully shaped and set in place to mimic the diamond design on the neighbouring John Lewis building.
The official launch date will be revealed soon, with several days of events expected to celebrate the occasion.
James Prince, head of branch at John Lewis Leeds, said: “It’s exciting to see the shop really starting to take shape now.
“The build-up and enthusiasm so far from the people of Leeds has been great to see and I just can’t wait for it to open.
“Victoria Gate is going to be a fantastic addition to the city, and as the anchor tenant we’re very proud to be a part of it.”
The city centre hasn’t seen a retail development of this scale since Trinity Leeds opened in 2013.
Many are hoping it will prove to be a big boost, putting the city firmly on the map and helping it climb up the retail rankings.
Gerald Jennings, president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is much excitement and anticipation around the opening of Victoria Gate and the arrival of John Lewis, which will boost the city’s retail offering and increase the profile of Leeds in UK rankings.
“Victoria Gate continues the expansion of the city centre eastwards creating new business opportunities as a consequence.
“Combined with developments proposed for South Bank Leeds there is a huge collective sense of positivity building within the city.”
Mr Jennings added: “Victoria Gate continues the success story that is Trinity Leeds and as a combined retail and leisure offer Leeds has much to shout about.”
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Right from the start we knew Victoria Gate was destined to be an incredible development that gave us a real opportunity to revitalise the Eastgate area, offering employment opportunities and cementing Leeds’s excellent retail reputation.
“Leeds is already one of the most popular shopping and retail destinations in the country – loved by visitors and offering a fantastic experience to people who live and work here.”
Coun Blake added: “Victoria Gate is going to be an amazing addition to our marvellous mix of existing local independent and mainstream businesses.”