BRADFORD will come alive with new events and entertainment designed to bring people back into the city centre and instil a new sense of civic pride if the planned Business Improvement District (BID) goes ahead. That’s the hope of business leaders who are aiming to invest more than £2.5 million in the city’s retail heart over the next five years.
One of the four key aspects of the BID business plan, to be unveiled at a special event on June 27th, is a strategy to ensure the city centre is a vibrant area and a place people can enjoy all year round. The BID team plans to help build on the success of existing events and to introduce a programme of extra activities to draw in many more visitors and shoppers.
The “Alive” section of the plan was drawn up by a sub-group of BID Development Board members following a feasibility study carried out towards the end of last year. More than half of the businesses who took part in the survey felt BID income should be spent on more major city centre events and festivals.
Sub-group chairman Si Cunningham (pictured) said: “The proposed BID will bring people from Bradford and beyond back into the city centre and be a real boost for civic pride. “There are a lot of people doing a lot of very positive things for Bradford at the moment, from the Council investing in our heritage to small businesses and arts groups choosing to make the city centre their home. “The next logical step is to find a way to bring it all together, and I think the proposed BID will do a lot to achieve that.”
The Development Board hopes to raise funds for the projects by encouraging more than 600 city centre-based businesses and organisations to invest in their future through an annual levy. The shops, leisure and hospitality firms, professional and legal services companies and others will be balloted on whether the BID should go ahead in September.
The project would make more than £425,000 available over the full BID term to energise the city centre.
Mr Cunningham, who is also chairman of Bradford Civic Society, said: “I think one of the most noticeable things that a BID can do for Bradford will be to physically bring more people into the city centre by making sure that it’s alive after five (PM) and that there’s a good variety of events on for all tastes, all-year round.
“We know that when we have things like the North Parade Street Party or Illuminate Bradford, thousands of people come into town and support local businesses, so imagine what a properly curated and well-funded calendar of events and attractions can do for the city centre all year round?
“From a Civic Society perspective, we are very excited about the prospect of the BID team doing more to shout about Bradford’s heritage. I think we have an opportunity to do more with our breathtaking built environment through better use of lighting and things like heritage trails or special events.
“People travel from all over just to see Bradford’s architecture, so it’s really something quite unique to our city that we should be making more of.”
The BID business plan will support new seasonal events including more regular, quality outdoor craft, food, speciality and cultural markets to benefit a range of areas in the city centre. It will also create strong links to farming communities in the Bradford district, through projects such as a city centre pick-up point for rural producers to sell produce.
New seasonal events, including more Christmas activities, could include a new annual Festival of Light, working with event partners to incorporate the Illuminate Bradford and the switch on of the Christmas Lights.
The BID would aim to make more of Bradford’s heritage through the introduction of initiatives such as vintage bus trips around the city centre, heritage trails and City of Film tours.
It would develop and support events to make more use of public space and work in partnership with local organisations to create a new annual awards event to celebrate the very best of retail and leisure in Bradford.
There would be more street entertainment and a variety of physical and digital trails would be set up to provide more interactive information about the city’s history and cultural contributions.
The BID would create more public art, through professionally-curated art installations and trails, and visitor routes would be set up around the city centre, possibly with new lighting and plaques to lead people to more diverse areas.
Key vacant shop fronts and buildings would be animated with film projections and better lighting would be introduced to show off heritage buildings and historic streets.
Mr Cunningham said: “If Bradfordians aren’t quite sure what a BID would actually do on a day-to-day basis, I’d encourage them to check out what they’ve achieved in other cities. Liverpool BID do some very impressive things around Christmas time. And in Leeds, the BID has brought some incredibly high-profile events to their city centre like nationally renowned food and music festivals.
“Really, when we put our heads together, we can achieve anything we want.”
The BID’s strategy is being backed by the team behind Bradford Live. Lee Craven, the project director, said: “The BID will play a big role in helping to make Bradford a more vibrant and exciting destination, and the restored former Odeon, to be run by the NEC Group International, will be one of the city’s biggest attractions when it opens in 2020. We look forward to working with all the BID partners to help breathe fresh life into the city centre.”