It has been an ambitious project years in the making. And so at 10am yesterday, with customers queueing at the entrance, those responsible for Preston’s market makeover will have allowed themselves a relieved smile.
The city’s much-anticipated new market hall opened its doors to customers for the first time, marking a major milestone in the multi-million pound plan.
Both traders and visitors put on a united front with plenty of positivity in terms of the designers striking the balance between traditional features and modern fittings.
There was also no shortage of optimism for its impact on raising the city’s profile and attracting visitors to Preston.
Nikki Keefe, whose Pickles of Preston stall has transferred across from the old facility and will include a micro wine bar for the first time, spoke of her relief the date has finally arrived.
Over the coming days and weeks more stalls will be ready to open and give you a warm welcome.
She said: “It has been a stressful few weeks, we have been planning this for five years. I think it looks amazing. I think it’s going to be great, I’m very positive about it; it’s just what Preston needs.”
Minutes after the doors were unlocked the sights, sounds and smells of a vibrant market soon filled the hall. In the interest of posterity, the historic first purchase was made by council leader Peter Rankin and deputy Robert Boswell at Livesey’s butchers.
The new facilities are all housed underneath the restored Victorian Canopy - which dates back to 1875 - with huge glass walls creating an open atmosphere with plenty of routes in from the different streets around the central location.
Shoppers told the Lancashire Post the new hall has a continental feel although the temperatures were distinctly more arctic.
More than half of the traders setting up for the first time on Monday transferred across from the soon-to-be demolished predecessor.
Outside the facility is the refurbished outdoor market space and box market, billed as creating “a distinctive shopping environment” and a boost for Preston.
Sam Livesey, chairman of the Preston Market Traders Association, added: “We can’t believe we are finally here, we’re delighted to have moved and very excited to welcome customers and traders.”
The market was due to open before Christmas but the date was pushed with concerns about timings around the busy festive period.
Several units are still yet to be fitted out meaning there were a few gaps to stroll past on the so-called “soft” opening day.
However, a majority of these are hoped to be up and running by next month when an official opening ceremony takes place next month.
For the next few weeks the market will play host to musical performances every remaining Saturday in February and in early March to further spread the message of what is now on offer.
Coun Robert Boswell, deputy leader at Preston City Council, said: “The wait is finally over and the doors are open. This magnificent structure propels Preston Markets well and truly into the 21st century, whilst being sympathetic to its heritage.
“New and familiar traders will provide fresh, local produce from their new home so please shop local and support them.
“Over the coming days and weeks more stalls will be ready to open and give you a warm welcome.”