BRENT CROSS CENTRE
North Circular Road and Hendon Way
London (Borough of Barnet), United Kingdom

Development of the regional-class, suburban-style shopping mall in Great Britain had its beginnings as early as 1963, but it would be over 10 years before the first one would begin trading to the public.


London's first fully-enclosed, post-war shopping precinct, ELEPHANT & CASTLE CENTRE, opened, in The Borough of Southwark, in March 1965. Similar to BULL RING CENTRE (1964) in Birmingham, it was a vertically stacked, inner city shopping hub.

An early proposal for an "out of town", regional-class shopping centre (to be built in the northwestern outskirts of London) was met with a tremendous amount of opposition. It was thought that such a retail hub would result in loss of trade for established, "high street" (center city) merchants...as had been the case with post-war suburbanisation in the United States.

By 1966, approval had been granted for the construction of a north London out-of-town mall. Two major British department stores, John Lewis and Fenwick, had signed on as its potential anchors. The new shopping precinct, to be known as BRENT CROSS CENTRE, would be developed by the London-based Hammerson Group with financing provided by Edinburgh-based Standard Life Assurance.

A 52 acre plot was selected. It was located 5 miles northwest of the London urban core, at the junction of the Hendon Way and North Circular Road thoroughfares. The Hendon Greyhound Stadium had stood at the site since 1935. It was demolished in 1970. Johnsons of Hendon, a photographic supply factory, had also occupied a portion of the land parcel.

An in-mall Waitrose supermarket became the mall's first operational tenant, on February 3, 1976. An official dedication was held March 2, 1976. The 790,000 square foot, 2-level complex was anchored by a 4-level (188,900 square foot) John Lewis and 3-level (147,400 square foot) Fenwick.

Among its seventy-five shops were WH Smith, Dixons, Mothercare, Russell & Bromley, Benetton, C & A Modes and Intersport. A 2-level (50,700 square foot), London-based Marks & Spencer was a junior anchor.

The 25 million pound BRENT CROSS CENTRE was Britain's first out-of-town, United States-style shopping mall...and the nation's largest retail hub. It was also noteworthy for its extended shopping hours. Whereas standard shops and services in Great Britain closed by 5 pm, those in BRENT CROSS would operate until 8 pm. This was a revolutionary concept in mid-1970s London!

Other mall-type centres were built on the periphery of Greater London. These included WOOD GREEN SHOPPING CITY / THE MALL AT WOOD GREEN (1977) {4.9 miles northeast, in the Borough of Haringey}, LAKESIDE RETAIL PARK (1990) {22.5 miles southeast, in the Borough of Thurrock} and GALLERIA HATFIELD (1991) {12.6 miles north, in the Borough of Welwyn Hatfield}.

BRENT CROSS CENTRE was given a major upgrade and expansion in 1995. The 40 million pound project added 90,800 square feet of retail space, forty stores and services, an American-style Food Court and a multi-level car park.

On the interior, new glass domes, lighting, fountains, escalators and a "glazed scenic lift" were installed. US-based Talbots opened their first UK store. BRENT CROSS CENTRE now encompassed 880,800 lettable square feet and one hundred and fifteen shops and services.

A second expansion was proposed in 2003 but met a tidal wave of opposition. The proposal was subsequently dropped. A greatly revised plan, which was less automobile-centric, garnered initial approval in June 2010.

Known as Brent Cross Cricklewood, the 4.5 billion pound endeavor would renovate and expand BRENT CROSS CENTER, adding over 800,000 lettable square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment venues. 250 acres directly south of the existing mall would be redeveloped as a town centre, with a second commercial district, parks, office blocks, residential units, community centre, public library and National Health facility.

It is plausible that the development could be serviced by a new transit corridor, the North and West London Light Railway. Consisting of four routes and thirty-four station stops, the prospective transit line is modeled on the existing Docklands Light Railway in London. Although recommended by local organisations, the Light Railway has yet to gain support from the powerful Greater London Authority or developers of the Brent Cross Cricklewood project. 


Sources:

"Brent Cross" article on Wikipedia

http://www.brentcross.com.uk
http://www.answers.com
http://www.johnlewis.com
http://www.brentcrosscricklewood.com
www.chrismrogers.net