The first Garden City Ltd was formed in September 1903 and shares were issued to raise capital, and although initial investment was quite rapid this slowed. The early developments of the city reflected the lack of readily available funds.
The original shareholders who put up the money to buy the land did not expect a dividend. Only leaseholds were available on property, and the ground rent was paid to the company, with the idea that the surplus would be used for the benefit of the town, rather than becoming the landlord's profits. It had cost 300,000 pounds to build which was borrowed with the idea that it would be paid of in thirty years with interest if factories and people came to live there ( first example of public and private initiative). They borrow money, buy land, build on it then they first pay of the loan and then use the rents to sustain services. Public finance helps get it up and running and private helps sustain it. .
In 1905 the Cheap Cottages Exhibition' attracted wide publicity for the Garden City and demonstrated that sound housing could be provided at a cost of just £150 per dwelling. The exhibition attracted 60,000 people and its success prompted a second exhibition in 1907. The years 1904 to 1914 were a golden age for Letchworth and accounts made by early pioneers described a new beginning and a great feeling of community spirit for Letchworth as it flourished. .
Regrettably the First World War disrupted development and plans for a number of public buildings on the Broadway never materialised. However, the 1920s witnessed Letchworth's re-emergence, and between 1924 and 1926 alone, fifty new shops were opened. The most comprehensive development was the arcade a covered shopping mall which linked the town centres two major streets Station Road and Leys Avenue.
Post 1945 the success of the first Garden City Ltd in generating profits from the estate, which were ploughed back into the town made it a highly attractive target for property speculators.