ITS transformation from a naval base into a vibrant shopping destination has been one of Portsmouth’s great success stories.
And now scores of shoppers, staff and civic leaders are celebrating the 15th anniversary of Gunwharf Quays – the former HMS Vernon.
A ceremony to mark the milestone took place at Gunwharf’s main square. Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Frank Jonas helped to cut a cake and there was a performance by the Portsmouth Grammar Brass Quintet.
Gunwharf’s general manager Colin Wilding said he was thrilled with the centre’s success.
Mr Wilding said the development, which includes hundreds of flats, a marina and attractions including Spinnaker Tower, was unique.
He said: ‘I like to think we’ve kept Gunwharf fresh, new, exciting and really contributed to the success of Portsmouth.’
Kevin Reeves is one of only a handful of people who have worked at Gunwharf since it opened 15 years ago.
The manager of the Christy linen outlet store, Mr Reeves said he loved the area.
He said: ‘It’s a real community here and it doesn’t seem like work to me. I still enjoy coming here as much as I did in the early years.
‘It gets in your blood a little bit.’
Council leader Cllr Donna Jones also praised the centre.
She said: ‘Gunwharf is the third-most successful retail outlet in the country and it really is a fantastic facility for the people of Portsmouth.
‘Over 2,500 people now work at Gunwharf Quays and that’s a 15 per cent increase in the last 18 months alone and in a recovery economy, that is a tall order, so well done.’
Cllr Jonas also gave a speech, saying: ‘Fifteen years have flown by. Many happy returns and all the best for the future.’
As part of the celebrations a phone booth in the central square is ringing randomly once a day, and people who answer first can win prizes including £1,000 shopping vouchers or weekend breaks away.
A video booth has also been set up where visitors can share their own memories of Gunwharf.
Mr Wilding said: ‘There are so many stories that can be told.
‘People might have taken their partner here on their first date, they might have graduated here, or even worked here when it was a naval base.
‘We want to hear them all and the best one will win a prize.’