The new-look Leicester Square is now complete ready for Diamond Jubilee and Olympics sightseers, as well as its usual 250,000 daily visitors.
The upgrades include more than a thousand square metres of granite paving, white seats shaped like a ribbon of movie film, mirror fencing, tree lights, and a fountain with 42 waterjets.
The £15.3 million makeover has been funded by Transport for London, together with the Mayor of London’s Office and four local businesses.
At the official unveiling on May 23rd, London Mayor Boris Johnson touched on how the square had once been named Fester Square because of its lacklustre and degraded character, but now it is an “an urban oasis”.
“This is not just a square which will attract the admiration of the world when it comes to London this summer,” he said, “this is a living, breathing justification and example of what we can achieve by defending, fighting for, and protecting transport infrastructure and investment in our city.”
The project was “brought in on time and on budget,” according to Robert Davis, Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council.
He said the refurbishment, together with further developement including a five-star hotel, traffic management and al fresco dining, will produce a “safe, secure and welcoming environment to visitors of all ages.”
As with the official defence of the disruption caused by the Olympic building sites, there was an emphasis on what would be left for those living in the area afterwards.
“For Londoners, the difference is they have now got a square they can spend more time in,” said Sarah Porter, CEO of Heart of London Business Alliance.
“So rather than just passing through and going to other destinations, this is now a destination in its own right,” she said.
Pointing to the fence, which also run alongside the also-improved side streets, Porter said: “There’s no railings like that anywhere else in the world. They’ve been made bespoke for Leicester Square, so you won’t see them anywhere else.”
She said the redevelopment had been planned for 10 years. “It has taken that long to get a join-up for all the businesses and all the property owners. But now they can see what the square’s going to be.
“[The redevelopment] is bringing many new jobs to the square and new businesses,” she said. “Just by making the square a better public space, it’s bringing in all this new economic benefit to the area.”
With additional reporting by Jingxing Li
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