Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Gordon's Life on the Square; GORDON Allanson Applied to Be the First Manager of Eldon Square Almost as an After-Thought. Yet He Watched the "White Elephant" Grow into a Mammoth Success. with Another Phase to Be Completed Next Week, He's Proud He Played Such a Central Role. MIKE KELLY Reports

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Gordon's Life on the Square; GORDON Allanson Applied to Be the First Manager of Eldon Square Almost as an After-Thought. Yet He Watched the "White Elephant" Grow into a Mammoth Success. with Another Phase to Be Completed Next Week, He's Proud He Played Such a Central Role. MIKE KELLY Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE KELLY

HE'S an easy man to interview, Gordon Allanson. We spoke for about 45 minutes and I asked at best about 10 questions.

At 77, he is as sharp-minded as ever. A can-do type of guy.

He is best-known in the city as the first manager of Eldon Square shopping centre, a job he got almost by default as no one seemed to want it. The reason was no one was quite sure what the manager of such a large indoor shopping centre should do.

In England at the time, there was the Bull Ring in Birmingham, another just opened in Nottingham and one in Manchester being completed.

Gordon had been project manager for the Newcastle scheme from 1972 having been headhunted because of his work as a mining engineer in India and at home, coupled with his experience at Durham County Council where heR acted as 'troubleshooter' by accessing government grants for projects that weren't getting them.

"It was soon to open and they weren't making much progress in finding a manager. I said what about me? At first they said 'no, it's a different discipline'. Then I got a call the next day and was told the job's yours. So I took it on."

By the time Eldon Square was officially opened in 1976 by the Queen, he was full-time manager.

It's hard to imagine now, but when Eldon Square was conceived there were many who thought the project was doomed. In a radio interview the day before it opened, the overall boss was left despondent when the interviewer described it as a 'white elephant'.

When the doors opened there were only 13 units inside as many retailers had chosen to wait to see how it went. It was mobbed with shoppers - there was a traffic jam of people on the six-metre wide bridge which couldn't move - and within days, bosses were inundated with requests for retail space.

"You'd never seen anything like it. How anyone could doubt it was going to work, I don't know."

Still Gordon and his team were flying by the seat of their pants on how to run it. "We got some help from the continent. They were red hot in Paris about shopping centres and the US. We brought in our own lease and set up a merchants' association."

New bridges were planned and the problem with changing rooms was sorted out. …

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