Friday, 7 November 2008

Westfield White City - What Recession?

Last Thursday (just across from the BBC - which was deeply embroiled in the Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand phone call scandal) the giant new Westfield Mall opened. After ten years of construction and planning and a billion pounds spent it is a cathedral to consumerism. Of course, as many newspapers pointed out, the timing of its completion could not be more calamitous. Or could it?

On the opening evening I went along to have a look. I had to shuffle along the pavement outside in Wood Lane, while marshalls controlled the crowds. We filed inside and could barely believe the scale of the place. Shiny and new it is the most impressive mall I have ever seen in the UK, and it's certainly World Class when it comes to planning and design.

I've recently returned from San Francisco where Westfield operate another prestige mall. I was wowed by the curved escalators (I've never seen curved escalators before) and the delicious food from around the world on offer in the basement food court. Spotlessly clean the communal dining areas were always packed - day and night. I still miss the Vietnamese shrimp Spring Rolls - well I did until Westfield opened in White City. The dining option looks equally enticing and yes they even have Vietnamese Spring Rolls with fresh shrimp.

Last weekend White City and Shepherds Bush ground to a halt as shoppers and sightseers travelled for miles to wonder at the new mall. As we dip into recession it makes you wonder if Londoners really do plan to spend their way out - as Mayor Boris urged when he cut the opening tape.

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