Bangor traders consider new business model

Bangor traders

PLANS have been unveiled for a Business Improvement District in Bangor, driven by a group of local business people.

A Business Improvement District (BID) is a defined area in which businesses get together to form a company that works on their behalf, investing in projects to boost footfall and revenue across the business community.

A newly formed Bangor steering group, consisting of traders from across the retail, hospitality, arts, leisure and transport sectors, recently agreed their key priorities and outline boundary for the BID.

The proposed district includes the streets adjoining Main Street, High Street, Quay Street, Queen’s Parade, Hamilton Road, Abbey Street and the areas bordering Ward Park and Castle Park.

The BID steering group is to host two open meetings in the coming weeks at the Court House for businesses within the defined area to come along and hear about the plans, ask questions and meet steering group members.

It is envisaged the BID process could take up to two years to develop with the process including developing a business case, consulting with all stakeholders and organising a ballot. If the BID plan is approved a formal board will then be set up and staff appointed.

Financed by a levy based on the rateable value of business properties within the BID, it will be run for and by the traders who set it up, with the aim of delivering a range of projects specified by members.

This could include practical street cleansing, graffiti removal, organising events or marketing campaigns, as well as liaising with public sector bodies such as the council, PSNI and Department for Infrastructure and raising additional funding for local projects.

It is envisaged that the levy will be 1.5-2% of the rateable value of the business property, with over half of eligible businesses paying less than £200 per year – some will pay more depending on the size and value of their premises. There is usually a lower threshold, below which micro businesses do not have to pay anything, and charities and not-for-profits may also get a discount.

The BID proposal must be approved by traders within the defined area before it can be officially established and there has to be another vote at least every five years, so members can end the BID if they think it is no longer working.

Johnathan Fusco, who owns three hospitality businesses in Bangor, including the Nines Hotel, the Grand Social and Wolseys, urged local traders to get involved and support the BID plans.

He said: “We are extremely excited and optimistic at the prospect of a Bangor BID, having seen benefits that businesses receive in existing BID areas such as the Linen Quarter. The project closely aligns with our own ambitions as a group, including our hospitality venues, to make Bangor a more vibrant place to live, visit and work.

“The initial meetings within the steering group have been brilliant, garnering insights and viewpoints from other local traders and organisations on opportunities and perceived issues impacting future commerciality.

“We strongly urge all of our fellow traders to get involved and support the BID as much as possible. It will be a small price to pay for the potential results for our local business community. However, we feel participation and inclusion will be vital to its overall success.”

Andrew Johnston, of Down To Earth on High Street, said Bangor is at a critical point with several major infrastructure projects in the pipeline including the Bangor Waterfront Plan and the Queen’s Parade Development due to start this year.

“Local businesses will need to work together to minimise the disruption from these projects, and to make the most of the opportunities. A BID could be a great way to do this,” he said.

Meetings will take place in the Court House on Bangor seafront at 5.30pm on Tuesday, February 6, and at 8am on Friday, February 9, with a presentation from Bangor councillor, Chris McCracken, who is also the Managing Director of the Linen Quarter BID in Belfast.

Businesses within the area who would like to attend can email: alison@openhousefestival.com with names and numbers.