Six days to SouthGate opening day
Bath's £360 million SouthGate centre is now just six days away from opening for business.
The nine-acre has site has been dominated by diggers, cranes and construction crews for the last two years.
But at just before 8am on Wednesday, the development will begin its transformation from building site to bustling shopping centre as the first phase of stores opens for business.
High Street chemist Boots will be opening its only UK flagship store of the year in the heart of the first phase alongside clothing stores Republic and New Look.
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Developer Multi will also be opening a 876-space underground car park beneath the centre.
SouthGate general manager Simon Pullen said excitement was building both from a construction point of view and that he was looking forward to the first people walking down the development's streets.
Mr Pullen said the first phase of the development was now around 70 per cent let, with 14 stores opening for business on launch day,
He said: "This is phenomenal in the current climate.
"We are still getting interest from retailers to open before Christmas as well as a few more who will fit out and open in the new year.
"Interest in the second phase is also really good at the moment."
The second phase is due to open in May next year with the development's anchor store Debenhams opening in the final phase earmarked for autumn next year.
The scheme will also be home to 99 flats and apartments situated in the floors above the shops which will begin to be marketed early next year.
Multi had been sporadic in its announcement of retailers signing up for units at SouthGate but Mr Pullen has put that down to a letting strategy which underpins the scheme.
He said: "SouthGate needs to fit in with what is already in Bath.
"We could have filled all of the first phase but not with ideal retailers.
"It needs to be a mix that complements what is there already in the city."
He said he wanted to ensure the stores were "here to stay."
He is a member of the Bath City Centre Management Partnership, and Bath Chamber of Commerce and sits on the board of public/private company Future Bath Plus, which was designed to attract investment into the city and promote the area as an attractive destination.
He said: "I don't think you can be in my position without knowing what is going on around the city and you can't do that by sitting in your office in the scheme.
"You need to be out there meeting people and being in different groups you can influence and put your views across.
"Also if you have best practice on your scheme you can share that with other people.
"Its all about getting different people's points of view."
SouthGate will be officially opened by local schoolchildren and their families who entered a competition to design a poster detailing the importance of safety with fireworks.
There will also be appearances by the Natural Theatre Company and a lunchtime performance by students from Kingswood School reflecting their involvement in the official Children in Need album.