Colmore BID unveils vision for the future of Birmingham’s business district

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Colmore BID has outlined its vision for Birmingham’s business district following a nine-month research project into the impact of the covid pandemic.

Among 30 propositions, it calls for the appointment of a ‘curator general’ to act as creative director for the city centre, to shape open spaces and attract new investors and professionals.

The Future Business District Study was commissioned by Colmore BID with support from Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), MEPC and Balfour Beatty along with city centre BID partners JQ, Southside, Retail and Westside.

It set out to address two questions:

1.      What is the likely long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on city centre business districts?
2.      How can we ensure they remain successful as places to attract businesses and people and contribute to vibrant city centres?

Research was undertaken by City-REDI | WMREDI at the University of Birmingham working with the Office of Data Analytics at WMCA and supported by UKRI.

The report’s authors say three drivers must now be at the centre of making business districts fit for the future: “curation, collaboration and connections.”

Colmore BID has launched The Space Between, its response to City-REDI’s research where it says the business quarter will continue to thrive by: “curating The Space Between that gives Colmore life and makes it attractive to businesses, professionals and visitors.”

Mike Best, board director of Colmore BID and chair of the Future Business District Steering Group, said: “When we set up the Study a year ago, business districts were facing an existential crisis in lockdown. City centres had been hollowed out, and the forced experiment of remote working was to prove that where to work could be a matter of choice.

“Through the study and its wide-ranging consultation, we’ve found a high degree of confidence that the business district still has a very exciting future.

“The attractiveness of cities and the advantages of clustering highly skilled workers in business, professional and financial services remain strong, but the office, business district and wider city centre environment is now even more important, with factors such as transport, safety and climate change uppermost in mind. It is not a case of what you can do for the city centre, but what can the city centre do for you.”

Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, added: “The council welcomes this timely report as we progress our vision and strategy for the development of Central Birmingham, ‘Our Future City Plan.’

“Future Business District is right to focus on the increasing importance of culture to attract and sustain firms, professionals and visitors. We will work with city centre partners to explore how a ‘Curator General’ could lead this work. I also want to see us build on the growing café culture that has emerged in response to the pandemic and unlock spaces for independent retailers, foodies and social enterprises.”

An independent advisory panel was formed to give feedback to the study team.

Chair Alex Bishop – co-head of Shoosmiths’ Birmingham office and national head of Dispute Resolution & Litigation – said: “Many firms are already embracing a hybrid model and discovering it’s working for them, their employees and clients. Companies are re-allocating office space to more collaborative styles of working. There is a real opportunity to make the business district more flexible and attract investors, professionals and visitors in greater numbers.”

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