Sunderland is set to be transformed over the next five years as businesses capitalise on £100m of investment.
The new Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) this week launched its strategy to re-invent the city and market it as a vibrant, thriving destination for shoppers, tourists and businesses.
It comes after businesses voted for the BID proposal, which sees them pay a 1.5% levy on business rates for projects to boost the city’s profile.
The Sunderland, Experience It Here campaign was unveiled at The Bridges Shopping Centre on Wednesday, when business leaders heard that despite job creation and a series of high profile events, footfall in the city centre had barely improved.
Chief executive of the BID board, Ken Dunbar, said a package of investment projects to regenerate the city worth £100m, including a revamp of the city centre, give the BID a platform to sell the area as a place to “visit, spend and stay”.
He said: “We have a committed board who want to see the city flourish and will challenge me to get the best for the city.”
The BID also aims to take advantage of the city’s events calendar.
“We will run a series of events and we will work with other events providers as well to make sure we connect up and create an offer that is bigger than the sum of its parts,” Mr Dunbar said. “That is absolutely vital.
“We will create a sense of vibrancy in the city and we can ensure that will happen by sending out the important message about how we should operate and what is good about the city.
“If you spend all your time looking at online comments, you can get quite depressed about the negativity and we need to absolutely drown that out.
“We need to say what is good about the city and keep repeating it.”
He added that a burgeoning music scene with gigs at the Stadium of Light and festivals such as Split and Vamos provide ample opportunity for BID bosses to sell the city.
“We will need to connect with those events and make a compelling argument for people to visit, spend and stay in the city,” he said.
The majority of BID directors are drawn from levy payers including retailers Harry Collinson (Collinsons Jewellers), Raymond Reynolds (Greggs), and Stephen Snowball (Argos). Restaurateur Ian Wong (Asiana Fusion), John Craggs (Gentoo Group), Magnus Wilson ((Divine Time (North East) Limited), consultant Ammar Mirza (The Point) and David Place (Mortons Solicitors) are also directors.
The voluntary sector is represented by Alan Patchett of Age UK Sunderland and there will be two directors from Sunderland City Council, Couns Mel Speding and Henry Trueman. Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth of Northumbria Police will join the board as an observer.
The three directors of Sunderland Business Ltd, the organisation behind original BID proposals, are also on the board. They are Peter Fidler, vice-chancellor of Sunderland University, Gary Hutchinson, chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce Sunderland Committee and commercial director of SAFC and John Mowbray OBE from Sunderland, who is an experienced non-executive director in a variety of industries. For infomation visit <a href = 'www.bidsunderland.co.uk'>www.bidsunderland.co.uk</a>