The York BID has set out ambitious plans to make the city cleaner, greener, more inviting and exciting over the next five years.
In its first term, the BID team chalked up an impressive track record of tangible improvements. Their deep-cleaning squad have buffed the city centre’s flags and cobbles, while Street Ranger patrols have made it safer and more welcoming.
York’s Christmas lights have gone from dismal to dazzling thanks to the BID, while its support has made possible hugely popular events like the Micklegate Soapbox Run, York Restaurant Week and Bloom! festival.
It had big plans for the final year of its first term – almost all of which had to be shelved due to Covid.
Instead the BID pivoted its whole operation to focus on helping the city and its businesses get through the pandemic, from providing hand sanitisers on every other street corner, to creating the pop-up outdoor space on College Green in summer.
Now, as businesses start to vote on another York BID term, it has put forward some of its plans for the next five years.
Here are four of them…
What is the York BID?
The BID (Business Improvement District) is a business-led partnership that invests in improvements and enhancements to the centre of York.
Its projects are funded by an annual contribution of 1% of the rateable value from businesses (those with an RV >£17.5k) that are within the BID area.
Every five years those businesses have to vote on whether to reinstate the BID.
That ballot take place between 18th February and 18th March 2021.
1. Create more green space and pocket parks
The College Green pop-up was a great example of the BID creating something from nothing to meet a need.
Working with York Minster, the team installed a family-friendly al fresco space where people could enjoy food and drink from local businesses, many of which had no outdoor space of their own.
Now they plan to build on that success by creating ‘pocket parks’ in the city centre. They have started to map out city centre locations, some in response Covid, others as part of long term features.
“We learned a lot from College Green about how to run a safe, clean and friendly outdoor space where all ages could gather and socialise,” said York BID executive director Andrew Lowson.
“It proved to be a double win for York – popular with both residents and visitors, and popular with Covid-hit businesses, offering them the chance to trade even if their indoors space stayed closed.
“Business and local people in particular want to see more green space in the city so this will be a focus for us for the next five years.”
2. Boost the experience economy
In the near future at least, one-off, mass-participation events will not be difficult.
So the BID wants to do things differently. They are looking at how to place ‘experiences’ in the city that can last for weeks, maybe even months – attracting the same numbers of people as, say, the Ice Trail, but not in a large crowd that gathers all at once.
What sort of thing? “We have some outdoor art installation planned for when the city reopens, that will celebrate local people and bring a sense of pride,” Andrew said.
It was the BID which installed the Fantastic Fiction storytelling windows on Davygate – with superheroes, dinosaurs and magical creatures proving such a draw over the festive season.
This could be the template for the next few years, as it can brighten up vacant spaces and put a smile on people’s faces.
3. A more accessible city centre
A generation ago, York pioneered the idea of city centre pedestrianisation.
But during ‘normal times’, the city still gets gridlocked – with commuters, visitors and businesses deliveries. It does not bode well for the city’s 2030 carbon neutral targets!
Could we come up with a greener solution, one that will reclaim the streets for people to enjoy and improve air quality?
The BID is keen to work with businesses and the council to investigate the feasibility of introducing greener deliveries to the city centre, which would reduce congestion and pollution.
This would certainly chime with the hopes to ‘build back better’ as we emerge from the pandemic.
4. Dig into a digital and data goldmine
Where do visitors to York come from? Where do they go in the city when they get here? What are their spending habits?
Perhaps more importantly, who is not coming to York and how can we address that?
Before now the answer has been, largely, we don’t know. There are footfall cameras – but they give a limited picture.
Now, though, the BID wants to use digital information to shed light on people’s habits. It has already started to collate anonymised data from Visa and O2.
“This gives us a much deeper level of insight into not only who visits York, but where they go in the city, and what they spend while they’re here,” said Andrew.
“We will be able to see what difference events, festivals and marketing have on visitor patterns and spending.
“And this will give us the ability to make much more informed decisions and in the long run help businesses understand where to boost their digital marketing, which has becoming increasingly important since Covid.”