Mercury opinion: Highcross is vital to Leicester's fortunes
It is the fourth anniversary of Highcross Leicester today; the city's £350 million shopping centre which opened in a blaze of publicity on Thursday, September 4, 2008.
Councillor Ross Willmott, then leader of Leicester City Council, said at the time: "This is one of the greatest days in Leicester's history. We are celebrating the opening of the biggest development that Leicester has ever seen."
Phew! Could anything live up to such a billing? Your view probably depends on your opinion of large shopping centres in general. If you like them, this is a pretty impressive example.
There will, however, be those who much prefer shopping in smaller, quirky, independent stores.
As we have written before in this column, Leicester needs both. We already have some excellent independent stores and we are delighted that the opening of the refurbished Silver Arcade in the next few months will mean more of this type of shopping.
Back to the subject of Highcross Leicester, however, our view is that it has provided a huge boost to the city as a shopping destination.
It is a high-quality development with a good range of shops, places to eat, and the excellent Cinema de Lux.
The flagship John Lewis is an outstanding department store and the open-air restaurant quarter has given Leicester a stylish new venue which rivals any city centre. Frankly, we cannot understand why anybody goes to Nottingham or Birmingham when there is so much at hand.
The other point worth making about the success of Highcross Leicester is to imagine what would have happened without it.
These past few years have been very rough times economically and high streets have been hit hard. The Highcross centre, and Leicester's other new developments, such as Curve theatre, have played a crucial role in attracting people to the city despite the downturn.
The important thing now is to build on that success with further investment in the city, and this is what the City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, is planning with the development proposals he recently announced.
All of this activity puts the city in a great position for the future and we are sure it will soar when the economy eventually bounces back. The Highcross centre has played an enormous role in getting us to this point.