Atria Watford

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Atria Watford
Harlequin Centre, Watford.jpg
LocationWatford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Coordinates51°39′19″N 0°23′39″W / 51.65528°N 0.39417°W / 51.65528; -0.39417Coordinates: 51°39′19″N 0°23′39″W / 51.65528°N 0.39417°W / 51.65528; -0.39417
Opening date1992
Previous namesThe Harlequin
Intu Watford
DeveloperIntu Properties
ManagementMichael Stevens
Owner(93%) Global Mutual, (7%) Watford Borough Council
ArchitectChapman Taylor Partners[1]
No. of stores and servicesOver 145
Total retail floor area107,000 m2 (1,150,000 sq ft)
No. of floors7 (inc. Parking)
Parking2050 + 3000 (Watford Council) in Watford

Atria Watford is a shopping centre in the middle of Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. It opened in June 1992 as the Harlequin Shopping Centre.[2][3] The centre was rebranded as intu Watford in 2013 following the renaming of its parent Capital Shopping Centres Group as Intu Properties.[4] It received its current name in March 2021 by the new owners, Global Mutual.[5][6]

The building is glass roofed with symmetrical malls. The anchor stores of the centre were branches of John Lewis (known as Trewins until rebranding in 2001)[7] and Debenhams, until their closure in 2020. Apple Store, Marks & Spencer, Zara and Next continue to operate in the centre.


In 1962 there were discussions about development of the site with the plans including a ten-pin bowling alley and 130 flats.[citation needed]

The Sainsbury's store on Queen's Road was bought and demolished (1983) to create space for the centre and a warehouse. During the development of the centre, listed high street buildings were renovated and Queen's Road was maintained as a pedestrian cross route through the town.[citation needed][8]

The shopping centre was named and opened by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd (founded 1987, dissolved 2000[9]) in 1990.[10] The name was a winning entry to a local competition;[11] according to the Watford Observer, the name was probably a reference to the nearby railway line, at the time branded the "Harlequin line" as it passed through Harlesden and Queen's Park.[12][13]

Watford Council extended a resident parking permit scheme in 1996 to deal with the parking congestion that had arisen since the opening of the centre.[14]

Intu Properties purchased the adjoining Charter Place shopping centre from Watford Borough Council in April 2013.[15][16] Planning permission was granted in 2014 for Charter Place to be demolished, to make way for a new mixed-use scheme which comprises 16 retail units, a new department store, 11 restaurants and a 9 screen Cineworld cinema, one of which is a high definition IMAX, which will be integrated into the main Intu Watford centre.[17] Demolition work began in November 2015.[18] On September 27, 2018 Debenhams opened a new 86,000 sq ft store in the extension, featuring its first redesigned beauty hall.[19] The 400,000 sq ft extension has increased the total size of the shopping centre to 1.15 million sq ft, making it number 18 in the list of the UK biggest retail destinations.[20]

Following Intu Properties plc entering administration in June 2020, a subsidiary of the company called Intu SGS received funding to take full control of the centre along with Lakeside, Victoria Centre and Braehead. The transfer from Intu to Intu SGS is expected to take place by the end of 2020, and will involve Global Mutual becoming asset manager of the centres and Savills serving as property manager.[21]

On 4 March 2021, new owners Global Mutual announced the renaming of the centre to atria Watford. It is named after the skylights spanning its roof.[22] This announcement caused controversy, with calls to revert the name to the Harlequin.[22]


  1. ^ Phillips, Derek (2013). "Case study 45: Harlequin Shopping Centre, Watford". Lighting Modern Buildings. Routledge. p. 192. ISBN 9781136387302.
  2. ^ Miles, David. "Trewins sets up shop in Harlequin Centre". Watford Observer. Watford Observer. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Harlequin Centre, Watford". Shopping Centre. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  4. ^ "The connected consumer – the future of shopping centres" (PDF) (Press release). Capital Shopping Centres Group. 17 January 2013. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  5. ^ Smith, Matthew (2021-03-04). "Intu Watford announces brand new name and logo". HertsLive. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Eade, Christine. "Intu plans to complete £100m revamp of its Watford centre by the end of 2017". Property Week. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Companies House WebCheck service, retrieved 6 Jun 2016
  10. ^ Intellectual Property Office ref O-346-04 - objection by HEL to the registration of a similar trade mark by Capital Shopping Centres plc
  11. ^ John Cooper (15 September 2011). Watford Through Time. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-4456-3203-2.
  12. ^ Crozier, David. "BR launches Operation Sparkle". Watford Observer. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  13. ^ Johnson, Marc. "25 years after Clapham". Rail Engineer. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  14. ^ Hayes-Griffin, J.; Collis, H. (1998). "Decriminalised parking in Watford". Highways and Transportation. 45 (5): 17–20. ISSN 0265-6868.
  15. ^ "Intu exchanges on Charter Place shopping centre". Watford Borough Council. 24 April 2013. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  16. ^ "Intu exchanges on Charter Place shopping centre". Watford Borough Council. 24 April 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  17. ^ Wright, Mike (9 January 2014). "Politicians approve plans for £100m redevelopment of Charter Place". Watford Observer. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  18. ^ Morby, Aaron (10 November 2015). "Laing O'Rourke replaces BAM on £110m Watford mall". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  19. ^ Ben, Stevens. "Debenhams launches Watford store with new beauty hall". Retail Gazette. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  20. ^ Richard, Williams. "Intu extension puts Watford in the UK top 20 retail destinations". Property Week. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  21. ^ Nazir, Sahar (27 August 2020). "Intu SGS secures £30m to take full control of 4 Intu centres". Retail Gazette. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Atria Watford: How shopping centre's new name sparked a backlash". Watford Observer. Retrieved 2021-03-06.

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