This is just the start!
That is the aspiration as Sainsbury’s opened its doors to shoppers following a £19m investment in what until recently was one of Blackpool’s most rundown areas.
The milestone - which has also brought 290 jobs to the resort - marked the completion of the first tranche of private funding for the Talbot Gateway - a £220m project aimed at transforming the area around North Station over 15 years.
More than a decade since the regeneration of the area was set out in the council’s original masterplan, the first phase is now in place.
Around half of the 900 staff who will eventually work there have been transferred to the £20m new council offices at Bickerstaffe House, alongside Sainsbury’s, where a gym has also opened, and smaller traders including Subway have also opened.
Around £6m has also been spent upgrading the Talbot Road multi-storey car park as part of the regeneration of 25 acres of land between George Street, Buchanan Street, Cookson Street, Talbot Road and New Larkhill Street which also includes a new road layout.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe, who attended the opening of the new Blackpool store yesterday, said: “It is a big investment for Sainsbury’s and we are very pleased to be here.
“We work with local authorities to regenerate and bring prosperity to the towns we operate in and we believe this store will bring more footfall to the town centre.
“We have also brought employment to the area. People make light of supermarket jobs but we have trained bakers, fishmongers and butchers and these are skills for life and transportable skills.
“So it’s a big opportunity and we take on a lot of young people, about a third of our workforce is under 25.”
The investment has been welcomed by councillors and shoppers.
Talbot ward councillor Mark Smith said: “This is just the start and I hope the fantastic investment we have seen in this store is going to be a catalyst.
“We need to regenerate the streets around and I hope we will see that start to happen in Cookson Street, Grosvenor Street, King Street etc.
“Also hopefully the next phases will see investment made in North Station and on the other side of the road where the Apollo store was.
“I think this is just the beginning.”
Shoppers also backed the investment.
Ann Park, of Fitzroy Road, Bispham, said: “I think this is going to change the whole of Blackpool town centre.
“It was ugly and tacky in this area before and the transformation is brilliant. Between the front and here, everything needs some work doing to it and I see this as the start of something that’s going to transform Blackpool forever.” Her neighbour Audrey Cripps added: “I think it will bring more people into the town centre which hopefully will help regenerate this area.”
Stuart and Jane Mitchley, from Bispham, were among the first customers as the store opened its doors yesterday. Mrs Mitchley said: “This part of town was very rundown and you didn’t really feel safe, especially walking about at night.
“But the outlook, particularly from the train station, has really improved.”