The Trafford Centre is a large indoor shopping centre and leisure complex in Greater Manchester, England. In the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, the centre is within the Trafford Park industrial estate, five miles west of Manchester city centre.
The Trafford Centre opened in 1998 and is the third largest shopping centre in the United Kingdom by retail size. It was developed by the Peel Group and is owned by Intu Properties following a £1.65 billion sale in 2011 – the largest single property acquisition in British history. As of 2017, the centre has a market value of £2.312 billion.
The site was owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Company until 1986, when the company was acquired by John Whittaker of Peel Holdings, who had plans to build an out-of-town shopping centre. The planning process was one of the longest and most expensive in the history of the United Kingdom; concerns surrounded the effect the shopping centre might have on retailers in smaller towns and villages in Greater Manchester and potential traffic problems caused by its proximity to the M60 motorway. The matter was decided by the House of Lords in 1996.
Twelve years after the Trafford Centre was first conceptualised by the Peel Group, it opened on 10 September 1998. Construction took 27 months at a cost of £600 million – approximately £1 billion in 2016. Two further extensions have since opened, Barton Square and the Great Hall in 2008, at a combined cost of over £100 million. Its rococo/late baroque architectural style pays homage to the history of the area. The Orient food hall is themed as a steam ship, reflecting the centre’s proximity to the Manchester Ship Canal.
Ten per cent of the UK population live within a 45-minute drive of the shopping centre, which attracts more than 35 million visits annually. It has Europe’s largest food court in The Orient and the UK’s busiest cinema, attracting more than 28,500 visitors each week. There are over 11,500 car parking spaces. The Trafford Park Line will form a direct Metrolink tram connection from the Trafford Centre to Manchester city centre via Pomona – construction began in 2016 and is expected to be operational by the end of 2020.