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The Exchange in Ilford – ‘the jewel in the crown’ – still shining 25 years on

PUBLISHED: 17:30 10 September 2016

The opening of the Exchange 25 years ago with Mayor Brian Hill and Neil Thorne Ilford South MP.

The opening of the Exchange 25 years ago with Mayor Brian Hill and Neil Thorne Ilford South MP.

Archant

“The jewel in the borough’s crown”, The Exchange shopping centre, in Ilford, opened 25 years ago this week.

An artists impression of The Exchange before it was built.An artists impression of The Exchange before it was built.

That was how the Recorder article at the time described the building at its opening ceremony, in High Road, on September 6 1991.

Ilford South MP Neil Thorne cut the red ribbon and residents enjoyed jugglers, a robotic mime duo and some Dixieland jazz.

But is Redbridge’s “jewel” still the focal point of shopping within the borough? Geoff Hill, Redbridge Chamber of Commerce chairman, believes so.

“I think it is still the focal of shopping in Redbridge, certainly a particular type of shopping, there are no other large department stores.

The ExchangeThe Exchange

“Many things have changed since 1991, people now often prefer smaller shopping centres, but I think the upcoming regeneration of Ilford will help polish the jewel,” he said.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes agrees. He has represented the constituency since 1992.

“It’s been around even longer than me,” he says chuckling.

“I’ve spent many thousands of pounds in The Exchange, in the food hall and taking my daughter to New Look.

“We would park in the underground car park, and I would walk around pushing the pram.”

Mr Gapes successfully campaigned for creche facilities to be installed in The Exchange when he was Labour’s candidate for Ilford South, and he believes this helped get him elected a year later.

He added: “It does face a challenge from Lakeside and Westfield, but I think with Crossrail, and the Ilford station improvements, it will retain its place.”

Redbridge Heritage are holding a coffee morning on Wednesday to discuss The Exchange’s legacy.

Sue Page, a development librarian for Redbridge Heritage, thinks The Exchange has had a big impact on the development of the town centre.

“There were big changes with the pedestrianisation of Ilford and development of Winston Way, which all came because of The Exchange.

“It completely changed how people shopped in the borough.

“It’s a much nicer place when there aren’t cars going past all the time.”

Sue admitted that The Exchange has struggled in recent years with the growth of Westfield but also thought the town centre improvements will benefit it. Redbridge Heritage’s coffee morning is at 11am on Wednesday in Redbridge Central Library, High Road, Ilford.

The Exchange have been contacted for comment.


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