Victoria Square opened at 10.05am on Thursday 6 March 2008 to a storm of glitter and a fanfare of percussion and brass from Ulster Orchestra members scattered across balconies at different levels. This weekend it’s celebrating its “fifth” birthday.
Back in 2008, the quick facts about the new shopping metropolis were:
- Built on 14 acres.
- 98 shop units over three floors.
- 35m high glass dome, with iconic panoramas over Belfast.
- 106 apartments, which were sold on day they were released.
- Basement parking for 1,000 cars.
- 800,000 sq ft (75,000 sq metres) of retail space, sustaining approx. 3,000 jobs.
- By the opening, 92% of the space has been let, though some stores and restaurants won’t open until summer.
- Built at a cost ~£150 million by joint venture between Farrans and Gilbert Ash, involving ~6,000 people.
- Over 17 million people are expected to visit Victoria Square every year, making it one of the top ten shopping centres in the UK. (Think some people will have to visit more than once to prevent queues at the airports!
In the intervening years, the Odeon cinema opened (18 July 2008), the Apple Store opened (20 September 2008) while many other retailers have come and gone.
Five years and nearly three months on, the fascinating facts are
- 75,000 square metres of shopping and retail space (7 football pitches)
- 70 tenants (including 50 stores and 18 cafes/restaurants) employing 3,000 people
- Walking the half mile around the four floors of Victoria Square apparently burns 40 calories
- 80ft glass viewing gallery … as high as 5.5 double decker buses … attracting 10,000 visitors a week
- 50 million visitors over last five (and a bit) years
- The 8-screen Odeon cinema has shown 1,450 films to 1.4 million people
- 3 million cars have disappeared into Q-Park’s underground labyrinth
The shopping centre opened with Fanfare to the Common Man, Slam! drummers, Cirque Bijou aerialists and Tap Dogs.
Birthday celebrations are running this Saturday and Sunday between noon and 6pm. Expect to see Kelly Brook on Saturday at 1pm and 3.30pm, and Peppa Pig and her brother George on the hour on Sunday.
And watch out in case the guy with the blue cake in the video below is still walking around!