Among the thousands of people who rushed into the building after the grand opening of the newly developed Battersea power station were Orla Sanders and Imogen Clark, friends in their 30s who live a stone’s throw from the new complex.
“We’ve been waiting for the day for the centre’s opening, the countdown has really been on,” Sanders said. “It’s incredible and all the shops are amazing, but it’s also quite dangerous because we may well end up spending quite a lot of money”.
Orla Sanders said she had been counting down the days until the centre’s opening. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian
After a £9bn investment by Malaysia-backed developers and more than a decade of restoration, the doors to the almost century-old decommissioned power station opened on Friday for the first time in 40 years.
The space has been transformed into a glitzy shopping centre of 250 stores, alongside mostly luxury flats, office spaces and an upcoming cinema and ice rink. After the grand opening, a five-day free festival of live music will take place on the site.
Emma and Marcus Liberman, a married couple from north-west London, decided to travel down for the centre’s opening after decades of speculation regarding what would become of the former industrial station.
“When we first came to London, there were plans for redeveloping the power station about 30 years ago, but it never came to anything,” Marcus said. “And I’ve always looked to this amazing building, and wanted to see what it was really about, so just really wanted to come and see it.”
He added: “It’s just really exciting to see it actually turned it something, being used and full of life again, as opposed to a rather sad looking, deteriorating building.”
Bernice Ondebola, a 67-year-old retired nurse who has lived in Battersea for most of her life, said the new development was a “lovely sight” compared with the abandoned and derelict former station.
The iconic Grade II listed building has reopened after 40 years following a £9bn invetstment by Malaysia-back developers. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian
“I grew up in south London, and have been living not too far away from the power station for the past 35 years,” Ondebola said. “In some ways the area is so unrecognisable compared to when I first started living here, with, you know, all the new flats and also the new tube. But I think the shopping centre is nice because it has a bit of everything for everyone.”
Ondebola said she especially liked how the centre, despite its modernisation, has retained many of its period features.
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“You can really feel that you’re inside the power station, with all the exposed brick and the machinery you can see on the ceiling,” she ssaid. “The building has such a big presence in our local area so it’s nice that it has become a place that everybody can use.”
Serge, a 52-year-old business owner and who has lived in London for the past 30 years, said that watching the power station transform from an abandoned building had been momentous.
“I’ve seen the station abandoned, and the whole surroundings at that time wasn’t very pleasant-looking. It’s very nice to see somebody invested in the area and moved the whole project ahead”, he said.
Although most people attending the opening were positive about the redevelopment, there was some concerns raised about the lack of affordable housing provided – at just 386 homes, a 40% reduction from the original plans.
Alice White, a 25-year-old student, was at first sceptical when she heard of the power station’s redevelopment plans. “I know there was a lot of debate about how many of the new flats inside the station would actually be affordable,” White said.
But despite still having some reservations regarding the development, White thought the centre was “quite enticing”.
“I can’t lie, the range of shops and places to eat here are kind of exciting,” White adds. “I live locally, and what I’m most happy about is not having to go all the way to Westfield or Oxford Street whenever I need to make some returns at Zara.”