A few months ago I received a “save the date” letter from Grosvenor, the developer of Liverpool One, telling me to keep October 1 free.

But mysteriously no more details have been forthcoming, so today I reluctantly decided to unsave the date.

I have two theories. One is that Grosvenor is taking the view that the whole of the retail property world will be in the city for BCSC a month later anyway, so why not save all the fun until then?

The other is that – as my colleague Ben Cooper reported last week (Retail Week, September 12) – the second phase of the scheme is going to open with a lot of empty units, so it wouldn't look too clever having a big official opening party.

Either way, poor old Liverpool One is being painted as the ugly duckling of this year's wave of shopping centre openings. While others like Westfield London and Bristol's Cabot Circus are opening close to fully let, the Liverpool scheme is finding the going a lot tougher.

There is inevitably a sense of Schadenfreude when a centre struggles and the developer has to take huge write-downs, as Grosvenor – which is owned by the Duke of Westminster, Britain's richest man – has had to.

But these rivals have short memories. When the site known as Chavasse Park was made available for developers almost a decade ago, nearly all the main players in UK shopping centre development were desperate to get their hands on it.

The scheme is big, sure, and no doubt Grosvenor might have done some things differently had it known the difficult market the scheme was going to be launched into.

But while it has been a nightmare for the developer in financial terms, it should be praised for creating something special in one of the UK's less fashionable city centres, where the previous retail offer, constrained by a very restricted prime pitch, was lamentable.

Liverpool One has a greater regeneration benefit for its city than probably any of the other schemes being completed this year, bringing jobs, prosperity and new retail names to a city that desperately needed them. If it succeeds in restoring Liverpool as a leading shopping destination – as the first phase is already doing – then the empty shops will be let before long.

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