Over 7,500 workers are in a race to fit-out 300 shops and restaurants before the 30 October opening
With just three weeks to go before opening, Westfield London shopping centre in White City is a very busy place. Large banners inside the mall proclaim the opening date of 30 October and you can't help suspecting that they have been put there as motivational reminders of this impending deadline.
Despite the 7,500 workers crawling over every inch of the development, it's going to be a race to the finish. Externally, areas of cladding remain incomplete and at least half of the Street, a long thoroughfare at the southern end of the development is waiting for its granite paving.
Inside it's even more hectic as over 300 shops and restaurants-worth of shopfitters vie for space. Wooden fins lining the ceiling of an eatery area called the Balcony are still being installed and work hasn't even started on some of the actual food kiosks.
The shops vary considerably in their state of readiness. Some are mere shells but Boots, for one, is nearly fully stocked. In other areas progress is carefully hidden behind temporary plastic sheeting. Concealed areas include the upmarket section of the scheme, called the Village, which will house retailers such as Tiffany's and Louis Vuitton.
Developers Westfield Group have an important job: to help co-ordinate all this activity and help speed things along. The company pre-installed floor screeds to eliminate a messy, slow operation at a critical time and centralised services help another complex fit out job.
Westfield is confident it will be finished on time, as development director Duncan Bower explains: “Everybody who knows retail knows there is a peak of activity near the end. We will be open and trading.”
Will it be worth the wait? It's hard to tell at the moment because the finishes are still hidden behind plywood and these are an important part of a shopping mall's identity. The swooping glass roof is an impressive element but apart from that it feels like yet another out of town mall. This is ironic given it's in the heart of west London's busy Shepherd's Bush area. Unfortunately it doesn't relate to its urban environment, but instead looks like it's just been plonked down into an empty space. The exterior feels impermeable with its blank looking facade - there are no glazed areas and it only has entrances at each corner of the development.
But as malls go, it has a wider mix of shops than most, there is a good choice of places to eat and public transport users have a choice of four tube stations, an overground and two bus stations coupled with a home delivery service. Which means the punters will probably love it - if they have any money left to spend.