IN PICTURES: Westfield Stratford City shopping centre takes shape

The race to complete the mammoth Westfield Stratford City shopping development is entering the home straight.

Units have begun to be handed over to retailers at the �1.45 billion complex, which will become Europe’s largest urban shopping centre.

Work is already well under way to fit out the flagship John Lewis and Marks & Spencer stores – located at opposite ends of the gently curving Northern Arcade – ahead of the opening date in September.

John Lewis is already beginning to recruit the 750 staff that will man its store.

Vue is also readying its cinema, which has recently gained an extra two screens for a total of 14 and the newly-constructed northern ticket hall – which will allow access to Stratford’s Tube, rail and Docklands Light Railway services – has been handed over to Transport for London.

Other firms will begin the process of fitting out their stores in the 1.9 million sq ft complex over the coming weeks, when the number of workers on site each day is expected to hit its peak of 5,000.

Construction is still taking place on a 350-bed hotel, which will be run by Holiday Inn.

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The second — a Premier Inn with 267 beds — is now largely complete, as are the centre’s four separate food courts.

Diners in the food court on the top floor will be able to savour panoramic views of the Olympic Stadium, Canary Wharf and the city beyond through what is believed to be the largest suspended glass panel in Europe.

About four-fifths of the available retail space has already been snapped up, with only smaller units remaining to be let.

Fifty escalators have recently been unveiled, ready to whisk shoppers between the 300-odd stores and restaurants spread over three levels.

Big names already confirmed include Topshop, Next, H&M, WH Smith and Waitrose.

Bosses have so far remained tight-lipped about the remaining stores set to move in and the exact opening date – but announcements are expected soon.

The area outside Waitrose will be designated as a market square, with traditional stalls selling fresh produce.

An outside space – dubbed Four Dials – will act as a public square, and a big screen could be installed to show Olympic and other events.

Away from the shops and restaurants, work on the structure and cladding of the One Stratford Place office block has also been finished.

A gas-fired heat, cooling and power plant will provide about three-quarters of the site’s electricity – and bosses hope to increase the figure over time.

The centre is expected to do a roaring trade during the 2012 Games, when 70 per cent of spectators will pass through on their way to the Olympic Park from Stratford’s railway stations.

But Westfield bosses are confident of long-term success. A spokeswoman said: “There is huge potential.

With the site’s transport links and the lack of similar-size retail space in the area, we have a total catchment area of 4.1 million customers with a weighted spend of �3.24 billion.”