A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
The official opening of Wood Green Shopping City by HM Queen Elizabeth II on May 13th 1981 marked a significant shift in the local retail landscape - including setting in train the demise of Myddleton Road.
The 30th anniversary of the opening was widely celebrated. The current management of "The Mall" marked the moment by relocating the original plaque unveiled by the Queen.
However its easy to forget that today's all too familiar shopping centre was a revolutionary concept for the UK when it was planned and built. The town centre mixed development comprising residential, car parking, a library and office space -alongside retail was innovative in a landsacape where most shopping was still carried out in discrete shops along linear high streets.
The closure, in 1963 of the LNER Palace Gates Railway Line including the Noel Park Station meant that a large amount of town centre land became available for the major re-development envisaged. The plan was to bridge the main road and integrate a new indoor shopping centre with the existing high street.
It wasn't just the physical plans for using the space that were innovative - the design of the project included the local authority working in partnership with commercial developers to ensure profits from the project were made available to benefit the whole community. However the ambitious plans to completely redevelop the town centre were not without difficulty as the British Pathe archive newsreel footage below demonstrates. (click on arrow icon, bottom left, to play)
The complex finacial arrangements between large, profit-driven corporate investors and a local authority keen to maximise local advantage were fraught. The end result was that Haringey Council had to pick up the bill for much of the development, (how things have changed... who could now possibly imagine financial institutions causing a crisis which resulted in a local authorities having to cut public expenditure!).
Wood Green's Shopping City was still new and interesting enough to feature heavily in the BBC Domesday Project in 1986.
The project - one of the first mass participation digitally based initiatives - attempted to capture a snapshot of ordinary life in communities across the UK.
Over one million volunteers took part with much of the cataloguing of each area done by schools. The Wood Green Shopping City features heavily in our local section of the project. It is identified as "unique" because of the "village in the sky" - the residential units above the shops.
Another local feature celebrated by the Domesday researchers in 1986 was Tony's Tea Bar at Ducketts Common- They wrote:
A well known land mark in Wood Green is the Tea Bar on the west side of Ducketts Common. The Tea Bar is owned by a gentleman called Tony. He has owned the Tea Bar for seven years. He sells coffee, tea, sandwiches and rolls. Some of his customers are from well know television programmes.
A decline in the fortunes of the shopping centre following the recession of the early 90's resulted in the sale to its current owners. In recent years they have made some significant changes, extending the building and adding a cinema.
Whether you enjoy the Shopping Mall experience, or not the centre is home to the biggest concentration of shops for miles around... and is always very busy - seven days a week.
As the economic cycle moves around, circumstances have again seen retail take a downtown. Wood Green High Street now has a few empty shops. Within Shopping City whilst some major casualties of the recession - e.g. Woolworths - have gone, they have has managed to keep most units occupied.
A new campaign launched this week aims to revive Wood Green's image and celebrate the independent businesses in the area. In a local newspaper article campaigner Tamara Palmer explains how she hopes to encourage more community-minded business alongside pop-up shops, portable retuarants and creative initiatives.
What are your memories or stories of shopping in Wood Green?
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