Helping create a great city
What makes a great city? That’s the question many investors at this week’s MIPIM, the world’s premier property conference, will be asking themselves as thousands of delegates from across the world sell the virtues of their cities. A delegation from Leeds City Region are attending, emphasising our thriving economy, creative population and impressive built environment that makes it such a great place to do business.
Closer to home, important work continues on making sure Leeds remains an attractive place to live, work and play. LeedsBID is part of a creative and collaborative process looking at the planning, design, management and animation of public places and spaces in the city centre, with the aim of adding something additional to those everyday experiences of life in Leeds.
Research shows attractive public spaces make cities tick. For almost 50 years, the influential architect Jan Gehl has been advocating for more liveable places, by developing spaces that promote interactions between people. Gehl’s philosophy is simple – to understand what makes cities tick, you have to observe people walking in parks, through plazas and on pavements. It was this insight that led Gehl to reconfigure New York’s Times Square from a traffic-congested, polluted rat run to one of the most celebrated pedestrianised spaces in the world, along with dozens of other transformational projects from Moscow to Sao Paulo.
Leeds is already blessed with some excellent public spaces. On sunny days, Millennium Square, Park Square and the steps outside the Town Hall are regularly packed to the rafters with lunching office workers. At LeedsBID we’re looking to make our city an even better place to sit, walk and mingle, as well as to work. Thanks to the support of 1,000 Leeds businesses, we’ve invested in a number of schemes to brighten up city centre streets.
A City Less Grey, a street art programme initiated by East Street Arts and fully funded by LeedsBID, created a series of street art installations at prominent sites across the city. These include artwork by Leeds tattoo artist Joe Dickinson on the hoardings covering the First White Cloth Hall on Kirkgate, and the iconic “Athena Rising” which stands as the tallest mural in Europe and greets travellers as they exit Leeds train station. The project builds on Leeds’ strong heritage of street art, showcasing local artistic talent and improving the look and feel of the city centre for residents and visitors.
We’ve also added some friendly faces to the streets of Leeds with our team of Welcome Ambassadors, providing a warm and welcoming meet and greet service for visitors and those in need of some extra local knowledge. The ambassadors, in distinctive yellow ties and bowler hats, help give directions to all visitors and city centre guests, as well as carrying out visits to businesses. On average, our Welcome Ambassadors speak with over 900 people every day and have been working with leading businesses to greet senior dignitaries to the city and showcase the very best of our business offer and heritage.
Our team of LeedsBID Street Rangers help keep the city centre clean and attractive by making sure our streets are free from litter, chewing gum and other waste which you see so often cluttering up the pavements in other cities. The Rangers’ first major clean-up was on Briggate, where the team spent six weeks jet washing Leeds’ most important shopping street. Since then, they’ve deep cleaned an area equivalent to eight laps of the city loop.
Thanks to these investments, Leeds recently received Purple Flag status for the second consecutive year, recognising the city for its excellent evening and night time economy. Clean, safe and well managed streets play a significant role in making the city centre an enjoyable place to be, particularly at night time, so we’re delighted a night out in Leeds is getting the recognition it deserves.
When showcasing multi mullion pound investment opportunities to an investor audience, street art and clean pavements may seem like trivial improvements. But we know from speaking with businesses and developers that quality public space really does matter when big investment decisions are being made. The last decade has seen an increasing number of companies shift operations from out of town sites to city centres, because they know employees value the benefits of a lunchtime stroll or a bite to eat after work. Companies like SkyBet and Burberry benefit from their location in a bustling, vibrant city centre, easily accessible and attractive to a wide pool of talent. Making sure our public spaces and streets are fun and attractive, as well as safe and clean, is ever more important in ensuring Leeds remains competitive.
So during this week at MIPIM, we urge those financiers and investors who may be considering Leeds as an investment proposition to come and experience our fantastic city centre. Join us to witness the street art, the friendly welcome and the buzz of England’s fastest growing city. We’re sure you’ll agree Leeds is a great city on the up.