December 9 2013 Latest news:
Monday, September 23, 2013
It was the shopping centre that changed the face of Norwich, and today it celebrates the 20th anniversary of its official opening.
The completion of Castle Mall in 1993 marked the successful end of a complex operation to build what was effectively a multi-level shopping centre underground.
It was designed by Norwich architect Michael Innes, and, with much of the building site within the outer bailey of Norwich Castle, was the largest urban archaeological excavation in the country.
The finished project won the Silver Jubilee Medal of the Royal Town Planning Institute, and the Major Centre Award from the British Council of Shopping Centres.
Paul McCarthy, centre manager, said: “It’s a very complicated and complex building, but at front of house we have tried to make sure it flows as best it can, and for a building that is effectively underground there is an amazing amount of natural light.”
But although the architecture won praise, Castle Mall’s biggest impact may have been on the city centre’s economy.
Mr McCarthy said: “Before Castle Mall was built, Norwich was 45th in the list of UK retail destinations. Currently it is eighth, depending on what measure you use.
“Obviously, that’s not [just] due to Castle Mall, but Castle Mall did improve the retail landscape in Norwich and encourage other inward investment by the likes of Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Debenham, and, in due course, Chapelfield.
“I would like to think that we were integral to the start of Norwich becoming a much better retail destination for the people of Norwich and Norfolk as well.”
Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District, echoed that assessment, and said the mall had played a part in creating a city centre with a strong social, as well as retail, aspect for visitors.
He said: “I think it has understood the need to be mixed-use now, a mixture between retail and leisure, and with the NHS and the cinema it reflects that.
“It adds to the strong retail offer in the city. Norwich has been ahead of the curve; Norwich anticipated that that was the way forward.”
He said Castle Mall also plays a full role in the city centre as a whole, sitting on the business improvement district board and helping fund festive events and the City of Ale festival, as well as hosting a GoGoGorilla.
“They understand that growing the whole city adds value to all the city as well as themselves”, he said. “That is where our city has done very well. By growing the city, it grows the economy for all the businesses.”
Mr McCarthy said Castle Mall staff had discussed whether to celebrate the centre’s 20th anniversary, or instead concentrate on its 21st anniversary next year, and decided to concentrate on the latter.
As for the next few years, he said: “The future is very bright. We have got a team here who are passionate about providing as good a customer experience as we can.
“We are obviously very keen to continue to make improvements to our lineup and offer people a really good mix of shops.”