diamond geezer

 Saturday, October 30, 2010

It being Saturday, a lot of you are probably thinking of going out shopping. But not to the City. It shuts down at weekends, when the bankers and office workers go home, so the shops shut down too. Newsagents shut, shirtsellers shut, even the whopping great House of Fraser at the top of London Bridge shuts, because it's not worth opening when there's nobody around. On weekdays, financial hub of Western Europe. On Saturdays, no spending power at all. But One New Change hopes to change all that. It's a brand new shopping mall in the very heart of the City, immediately to the east of St Paul's, and it opens Saturdays. And Sundays. And weekday evenings. Proper transformational, they hope.

One New ChangeNot everybody's impressed. The new building's a brown glassy thing with curved edges and an inner gash. It screams 21st century, whereas nextdoor stands a cathedral which embodies everything architecturally splendid about the 17th. Stick One New Change in a Kent quarry next to Bluewater and nobody would blink, but here it looks joltingly out of place. Still, it's jobs, innit? And somewhere new to spend money.

I've read several reports cut and pasted from press releases about how great One New Change is going to be. But nothing as yet from anyone who's actually been since it opened. So I thought I'd step in and tell you, because it's only fair you consider whether this might be a better location that your local mall or high street to go shopping today.

One New Change opened at noon on Thursday, but I didn't get there until after dark. Too late to see the Hoosiers perform, but in time for some warbling jazz trio in little black cocktail dresses. Which was useful, because it gave the thousands of people who'd turned up something to do apart from buy things. Thursday was definitely the day for acclimatisation and window shopping, deciding whether this was perhaps somewhere you'd want to spend more of your time. Or not.

One New ChangeI soon sort-of got the hang of the place. The ground floor's sort-of cruciform, with a main funneling passageway leading in from the St Paul's end. The cathedral's perfectly framed if you look back, with the best views currently reserved for those taking the lift up to the first floor. There are a few fewer shops up here, and walkways that won't take you long to walk round unless you venture inside somewhere.

Getting to basement level proved more of a challenge. I assumed there'd be an escalator down from the central atrium (just as there's one up), or even some public stairs, but apparently not. Instead you have to take the lift from G to LG, or walk all the way out to the street and then slope back down the main escalator there. I assume this is a deliberate design feature, but I bet it significantly reduces the number of downstairs shoppers.

There'll be two main reasons to come to One New Change - for food or for clothes. Umpteen café and restaurant outlets clog the floors, presumably because the City's dining requirements are voracious. More lunchtime-oriented than evening-based, to be honest, but still with sufficient poshnosh diners to satisfy a lengthy client list. Jamie's here soon with a meatfeast diner, because celebrity sells, and Gordon will be along later.

As for clothes, the mall's guide makes no mention of 'shops', merely 'brands'. If your idea of retail heaven is nipping from Kurt Geiger to Banana Republic to Superdry then back to Kurt Geiger for those gorgeous leather wedges, you'll be well at home. There's nothing here as common as a TK Maxx or a JD Sports, but neither is there anything too exclusively luxurious. Bankers can continue to blow their mega-bonuses elsewhere - this place is targeted at a more mainstream aspirational audience.

Thursday's ambling crowds gave One New Change a vibrant buzz, which might be amplified in a fortnight's time when the 6th floor public roof gardens open. But in truth this is merely an extremely central shopping mall, whose opening means the City's now slightly less shut at weekends. Unless you're a gourmand brandoholic, I'd not rush.

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