BLUEWATER: INNOVATION IN RETAIL DEVELOPMENT
In May 1990 Blue Circle, owners of Western Quarry which had been long worked out for chalk for cement production, gained outline planning permission from the local council for developing the site. Little had happened by 1994 when Lend Lease, an Australian based property and finance company, became interested in the development and, in June that year, they signed a lease (the freehold was acquired later) with Blue Circle with a commitment to build a retail development in the former quarry.
The project quickly gained momentum. In early 1995 negotiations opened,
and by the summer were finalised, with John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and
the House of Fraser to form the three anchor stores for the new development.
Later that summer, Dartford Borough Council approved the plans and in
September work began on the site with laying of pipes to the Thames for
the control of water. The project posed a number of engineering challenges
right from the beginning:-
The total cost of the the Bluewater project was set at £375 million, with support from Lloyds, Barclays Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Prudential. The American civic architect, Eric Kuhne, was the inspiration behind the architectural design which is unique for a retail shopping environment. He sought to combine English culture, local folklore and the Kentish environment. Bluewater's shopping malls are styled like balconied streets with ornamental balustrades on two floors and topped with glass-sided dome roofs which allow natural light to flood in. Fresh air is brought into the malls through rotating aluminium vents on the roofs, a unique design based on traditional Kent oasthouse roofs.
The path of the River Thames runs through the limestone floor of the Thames walk and Shakespearean sonnets are inscribed in the malls. Artists and sculptors produced fifty pieces of original art for Bluewater, including individual sculptures of each of the craftsmen of the medieval guilds.
The triangular design of Bluewater was aimed to make shopping easier with one of the three anchor stores at each corner connected by three distinct shopping malls:
Research by Bluewater showed that shoppers wanted to combine good food, entertainment and shopping on an ideal day out. As a result Bluewater created three leisure areas for guests to take a break from shopping and relax :
Surrounding Bluewater are seven lakes and woodland, tree-lined avenues,
formal gardens and water gardens. There are cycle paths, a boating lake
and picnic areas.
Bluewater, Europe's largest and most innovative retail and leisure destination opened on March 16,1999. It has changed the face of retailing in the UK and become a benchmark for British retailing. It has won a multitude of international awards including a Millennium Product mark.