By Dave Baldwin
People vote with their feet. In Bradford, we are seeing more people eating and drinking in the city centre after work. This spike in footfall – called “alive after five” – is all down to the office sector, according to BID manager Jonny Noble. “More Grade A offices are a no-brainer,” he said.
They are on their way. Muse Developments, the urban renewal specialist, has been chosen by Bradford Council to deliver a major new office building at City Park as part of the local authority’s wider regeneration of the city centre. The One City Park project will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space in the city centre.
David Wells, regional director at Muse Developments, said: “This development will form an important part of the council’s city centre masterplan and we will be delivering a best-in-class destination that attracts new occupiers to Bradford and reinforces the city centre as a fantastic location for business.”
It’s going to be a busy decade for Bradford. The £21m market project will provide the city centre with modern market facilities and help meet the challenge of the changing high street. A city village of 1,000 new homes and spaces for business is planned for the area in and around the Top of the Town. Forster Square train station is set to undergo a major redevelopment. All will improve the amenity of Bradford and encourage more people to work and live in the city centre.
Businesses are starting to look at Bradford in a different way. PwC chose Bradford city centre for its new UK assurance centre in a significant vote of confidence in the district and its talent pool. The global accountancy giant is creating up to 225 new white collar jobs at 5 Godwin Street, another Grade A office development. No doubt those new recruits will be contributing to that spike in footfall after work.
They have plenty of choice for places to go. The £260m Broadway Shopping Centre has established itself as one of the UK’s most successful retail and leisure destinations and is winning national recognition for its performance in areas like footfall, customer spend, dwell time and community engagement, campaigns such as Sparkling Bradford and its ability to attract new tenants. For those who like something a little different, the historic tunnels of Sunbridge Wells and its subterranean bars and venues are certainly “alive after five”.
Our city centre workers have spending power. Bradford saw the biggest growth in advertised salaries of any major city in the UK, according to research published last month by the job search engine adzuna.co.uk. Bradford salaries rose by 3.6 per cent last year, compared to declines in places like London, Manchester and Leeds. Adzuna said Bradford is “bucking the trend and showing strong growth”.
Employment is bouncing back after some tough years. Bradford enjoyed the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the UK between 2015 and 2018 with unemployment falling from 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period, according to the Demos-PwC report on Good Growth. It also showed how more than 43 per cent of adults held at least an NVQ level 3 qualification in 2018, compared to 39 per cent in 2015. As a result, the report crowned Bradford as Britain’s most improved city.
Property investment is all about timing. Congratulations to Muse on being selected to bring forward the One City Park project. The timing could not be better. The developer and the council say they will work together throughout 2020 to formalise the proposed partnership, develop the design of the building and work on a planning application. Subject to planning, work will begin on site in 2021 with expected completion in 2023. Before long, the city centre will have more Grade A space to attract new investment in the district.
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said: “The appointment of award-winning developers Muse to design and build One City Park is yet another firm indicator that Bradford is on the way up. Building on the success of City Park and the progress of Bradford Live, it’s a further indication that the UK’s youngest city, with its entrepreneurial spirit, is recognised by the wider business community as a place where they want to, and can, do business and that we are a council which supports them to do that.”
People do vote with their feet. So does business. And they are making their way to Bradford.