The Merchant City was formerly the residential district of the wealthy city merchants in the 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly the Tobacco Lords from whom many of the streets take their name. The area has been promoted and built up in recent years as a residential, shopping and leisure area, mirroring London’s Covent Garden. To this end many new bars and restaurants have been established. This has been complemented with the building of prestigious new housing developments, often by restoring Victorian buildings - an example being the GPO Building development. Another important element of the area's transformation is high-end shopping, anchored by the Italian Centre. The district further benefits from a wealth of transport links, which along with the standard of property, adds value to the area. The annual Merchant City Festival takes place in July/August attracting tens of thousands to the area with its multi-arts programme.
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