The prospectus for a new initiative that will encourage businesses in the Colmore quarter to contribute towards improvements to the area has been launched.
PwC played host to the Colmore Business Improvement District (BID) event which was attended by representatives of firms that will be eligible to vote in a ballot which will be held during January and February next year.
The BID will come into effect if a majority of businesses in the Colmore area as well as a majority of the rateable value of the area votes in favour of the initiative.
The BID is being led by Birmingham Forward and Birmingham Future and supported by Birmingham City Centre Partnership and the campaign to persuade businesses to support the BID started in earnest with speeches from Sue Lewis of Eversheds, BID Champion Gary Cardin from Drivers Jonas and Jonathan Cheetham and Jenny Inglis of Birmingham City Centre Partnership.
Clive Dutton, director of planning and regeneration at Birmingham City Council was also in attendance to further demonstrate the city’s support of the BID.
The Prospectus, which was distributed to all guests, lists the ten BID pledges, details the key actions that will be undertaken, provides a detailed breakdown of the first year’s budget and explains the voting process for early 2009.
The Colmore BID would be the city’s third Business Improvement District following the successful launch in recent years of the Broad Street BID and the Retail BID, both have which have led to significant benefits to their respective areas.
The Colmore quarter is Birmingham’s premier concentration of professional and business service firms and home to some 500 companies that employ almost 24,000 people. The area welcomes many of the city’s business visitors and is due to play a major role in the development of the city centre as detailed in the Big City Plan.
This is the first UK BID with such a high concentration of commercial occupants at over 90 per cent.
As part of the BID’s key pledges is a promise to promote a clear identity for the district and to deliver a high quality and user friendly “streetscape” Also contained within the prospectus are pledges to make the area safer and cleaner. It is also hoped that the BID will bring a collective voice for the business community within the area and opportunities to network and engage with neighbours.
Within the specific actions detailed by the BID is the recruitment, during the first year, of a team of “street wardens” to provide both meet and greet in addition to safety and security services to staff and visitors alike. There is also a commitment to improve safety with upgraded lighting and other physical improvements and to initiate a range of street and IT based signage and information media.
The BID will be financed by an annual levy being collected by Birmingham City Council. All business sectors will be included and a 1 per cent levy of rateable value will be charged on all properties with a rateable value in excess of £10,000 per annum. The largest occupiers in the district will have their contributions capped.
As with the other Birmingham BIDs the City Council has agreed to collect the levy pro bono and this, coupled with their levy on the properties they occupy within the district, are tangible signs of their commitment to this BID process.
A small number of retail businesses situated within the Colmore Business District who are already contributing to the Retail Birmingham BID will be exempt.
As part of the prospectus the BID team presented the first year’s spending priorities from an anticipated budget of £680,000.
Of this £170,000 (25 per cent) will be allocated to improving the streetscape and public realm environment including the commissioning of sculpture, greening, floral displays and festive lighting, £160,000 (23.5 per cent) will be set aside to finance the full time uniformed street wardens and £40,000 (5.9 per cent) will be allocated for the BID caretaker service to ensure maintenance and cleaning is kept up to standard.
A not-for-profit company will be formed to run the activities of the BID with a voluntary Board made up of representatives from different sectors of the business community taken from firms situated within the BID area and from other strategic partners.
Gary Cardin said: “This is a very exciting initiative for one of the city’s most prestigious business areas. If the BID is successful we will, through the BID company and by working with partners such as Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police, change dramatically the environment and atmosphere of the Colmore Business District.
“During the five year term of the BID we are able to invest just under £3.5million into this important area of the city centre that will significantly improve the landscape for the firms and their staff who work here and also provide a more welcoming and pleasant place for our visitors.”