Firms in Birmingham’s financial district will get the chance to vote on plans to set up a dedicated group to promote and protect the area.
Birmingham Forward, working with partners Birmingham Future and Birmingham City Centre Partnership is launching a campaign to set up a Business Improvement District around the Colmore Row area of the city – home to many of the city’s professional services firms.
If it receives council approval, all the traders and tenants in the area will vote in a ballot early next for to set up the BID.
A Business Improvement District is a defined area within which the local business community work together to collectively invest in projects and services to improve the business environment.
The city currently has two BIDs already – one covering the Broad Street area and a retail BID covering the major shopping areas in the city centre.
There are dozens more across the UK, but the Colmore Business District would be the first to take in an area with such a heavy financial focus.
The district proposed by the campaigners will take in all the area between Great Charles Queensway and the shopping area of the city centre.
This would include Victoria Square, Colmore Row and surrounding streets, businesses around Birmingham Cathedral and the area surrounding Snow Hill.
Currently 500 companies, employing almost 24,000 people occupy space in the BID area.
The BID would be paid for by a one per cent levy on ratable value applied to all businesses in the district with a rateable value of £10,000 or more.
Gary Cardin, a commercial property consultant at Drivers Jonas, is one of the champions for the Colmore Business District plans.
He said: “BIDs are a very effective way of adding value to an area. We have seen this not only in Birmingham but in other cities here and in the US.
“It provides an opportunity for businesses to improve the surroundings around them in a variety of positive ways. It will bring a collective spirit and purpose to the businesses within the designated BID area with a demonstrable and beneficial delivery of services that would not be possible without the funding raised from the BID.
“The response we have received from businesses within the Colmore Business District during the consultation has been extremely enthusiastic and positive.
“The business case for the BID is a strong one, the benefits are clear and the BID is confident that we can deliver the objectives being developed for our proposal and very quickly tenants and visitors will be able to see the positive contribution the BID is making to the area. Where a BID is already in operation the area has been transformed.”
The BID will be run by a board of directors drawn from business leaders within the district, led by a full-time manager.
Its main aim will be to ensure the Colmore Business District remains the major commercial centre for business in the city and improve its services, environment and atmosphere for the benefit of businesses, their staff and visitors.
There are also plans to make a safer street landscape, which would include improvements to street furnishings and lighting. It would also look to promote the identity of the area as a specific district.
The team behind the proposed plans are looking for feedback from people who would be affected by the change on their website.
The plans still need the approval of Birmingham City Council, which would collect the money to pay for the BID. The issue is set to be discussed at an upcoming cabinet meeting.
Councillor Len Gregory, cabinet member for transportation and street services at the council, said: “BIDs represent a very significant advance in the management of a city centre and help to develop partnerships between business ratepayers and the city council, enabling businesses to play a more central role in managing and maintaining their local environment.”
Ballot papers are set to go out in mid January with the announcement of the result due at the end of February. The BID will only go ahead if at least 50 per cent of voters, representing at least 50 per cent of rateable value in the area, say yes.
The campaigners said if the plans were approved by the councils and the local people, they expected the BID to start in April 2009, with an initial lifespan of five years.