A leading authority on retail-led regeneration gave Hull its seal of approval for working to maximise the benefits of investment triggered by City of Culture.
Representatives of Revo – the retail evolution partnership – highlighted the city centre streets and the shopping and leisure offers as areas showing major improvements since the group held a conference in Hull in 2016.
Bernard Ferris, Head of Retail Property at FI Real Estate Management and chair of Revo’s northern board, said: “We came here for our conference in anticipation of City of Culture and the effect that it might have.
The reason we came back is because so much has happened since our previous visit and we wanted to look at the effects of that and see if there’s a physical manifestation of the change.
“There has been a lot of change in terms of the public realm and the commercial space. The public realm has been improved dramatically and Princes Quay has been developed as a hybrid shopping centre. City of Culture has been a huge success for the people, not just for the businesses.”
The Revo delegation comprised around 30 property professionals from organisations including shopping centres, local authorities and commercial agents. They toured the city centre and visited Princes Quay and St Stephen’s, hearing first-hand from speakers including the managers of both centres, Martin Green, Chief Executive of the City of Culture Company, and Kathryn Shillito, HullBID City Centre Manager.
Ray Cliff, Head of Centre Management at Realm Limited, told how Princes Quay has benefited from the investment of £20 million to create the new Outlet Deck. He added that future plans include improving the food and beverage offer and creating direct access to The Venue, which is due to open next to Princes Quay by the end of June.
Jim Harris, Centre Manager at St Stephen’s, highlighted some of the new arrivals at his complex including Smiggle, Footasylum, NYC Bar and Grill, Gravity, Fun Station, Rock Up, Zizzi and Caffè Nero. He added that the total space allocated to the food and beverage sector and to leisure has almost doubled since 2012.
Martin Green said the City of Culture company will publish its research into the economic impact of the 2017 programme at Easter, and he gave a preview of some of the figures.
A total of 1.1 million people walked past Blade during the nine weeks it was up in Queen Victoria Square. Of those, 210,000 said it was their reason for visiting on that particular day. If they all buy one cup of coffee you have the beginning of your economic argument.
Kathryn said: “The fact that the Revo delegates were so keen to return to Hull underlines the progress achieved by the city and its businesses. The contacts we have developed in the retail and property sectors will help us build on that success.
“Hull has become a book-it list place to visit and a desirable place to reside. It’s in tune, everybody wants to be part of it, everybody wants to come here and we are seeing a growing number of conversions of commercial buildings into residential units for people who want to live in the city centre.”