The Arndale Centre Manchester, with a retail floor space of around 1.5m sq ft, is the largest city-centre shopping mall in Europe. Having been built in the 1970s, when such malls were springing up around the UK, it was dramatically redeveloped from the eyesore it had become with its Stalinist architecture, thanks ironically to the IRA bomb that ripped through Manchester in 1996. Its 38m visitors a year (ahead of the mighty Trafford Centre which is on 35m) make it one of the most popular shopping malls in the UK.
The Arndale Centre Manchester took most of the seventies to build on Market Street, which had been the main shopping street in Manchester since 1850. The Arndale Property Trust that built the mall took its name from its founders Arnold Hagenbach and Sam Chippendale. Building commenced in 1972 and the mall opened in stages, with the Arndale Tower and sixty shops opening their doors in September 1976. This was followed by the Knightsbridge Mall in May 1977, the Northern Mall six months later and the Market Hall in 1978.
The Arndale Centre Manchester began life amid controversy, some said that the final building which Manchester City Council had hoped to be the finest mall in the UK, was excessively large, others criticized its architecture. The authorities had demanded that it be a closed building with little natural light. The fact that it was covered in pre-cast concrete panels covered in yellow ceramic tiles didn’t help. These helped earn the epithet “the longest lavatory wall in Europe.”
However the IRA bomb changed everything. Large parts of the Arndale Centre Manchester were replaced and flagship stores from major retailers such as Next, Top Shop, HMV and Waterstones sprung up. As expected, a huge food court with seating for 800 and accessible by an escalator was included in the refurbishment too. The Arndale Centre Manchester is joined to Marks & Spencer and Selfridges opposite by a stunning glass footbridge on the first floor, which when combined with the nearby Triangle and the luxury shops on New Cathedral Street, make this area of Manchester perhaps the premier shopping district outside London.