Aberdeen Inspired has announced the launch of the Back the BID campaign to ensure it can continue to support the city and wider north-east.
In line with Scotland’s other Business Improvement Districts (BID), Aberdeen Inspired must ballot the businesses within the BID footprint every five years.
A successful ballot will futureproof the organisation and ensure it can continue working on behalf of local shops, bars, restaurants, property owners, landlords, shopping centres and all other city centre businesses until 2026.
Ballot papers are being distributed this week after a short extension was approved amid Covid-19 restrictions, which has seen many businesses forced to close.
The vote opens on Thursday, May 13 and eligible businesses have until 5pm on June 24 to have their say.
Aberdeen Inspired was established to attract, sustain and boost investment in Aberdeen’s city centre for the benefit of its levy payers and all those who live, work, shop and visit there.
It recently launched its business plan for 2021-26, which has a strong focus on city centre recovery, reinvention and resilience as the country emerges from lockdown.
‘A vote for the survival of our city centre’
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said its voice would be needed more than ever in a post-coronavirus world.
He said: “Every five years, Aberdeen Inspired, like every other BID up and down the country, goes to a ballot among levy-payers.
“We find ourselves seeking a positive vote at a time when every business is operationally and financially challenged.
“However, a vote-in the ballot this year is a vote, not just for the positive improvements we bring, but for the very survival of our city centre.
“Aberdeen and the wider north-east can only stand out as an attractive, worthwhile place to visit if it has a vibrant and appealing city centre that is rich in culture, retail and entertainment.
“Our programmes and activities, which have helped rejuvenate the city centre over the last five years, will be vital in restoring confidence.
“A positive vote will enable Aberdeen Inspired to act as the unified voice with local and national government, industry bodies and key opinion formers to ensure the regeneration and reinvention of our city centres is at the top of the agenda as we move into the post-covid recovery phase.
“Never before has there been a more critical time for our city centres to have leadership and partnership that is and committed to leading the charge for investment, repurposing and delivering for the city.”
Return of events to city a ‘psychological uplift’
Among the initiatives delivered by Aberdeen Inspired is the popular street art festival, Nuart Aberdeen, which will return to the city next month.
Mr Watson said: “It’s a psychological uplift to see events of the magnitude of the globally-acclaimed Nuart back in the city centre.
“Hopefully, with time and when it’s safe to do so, we can draw the crowds in and get a festival feel for Nuart.
“In the interim, we work to the guidelines but we also make the promise that as soon as we can we’ll bring Nuart back to its full glory and many other events that we’re famed for back in the city centre.
“We’ll continue to work with all our partners in developing the masterplan, evening and nighttime economy strategy, to keep the place safe.”
Other cultural events and initiatives aimed at increasing footfall and dwell time include Aberdeen International Comedy Festival, the annual Christmas Village on Broad Street and the indoor Christmas Market in 2020, the Aberdeen Gift Card, Aberdeen Jazz Festival and the Inspired Nights street food market at The Green.
Before the pandemic, an Alive After Five scheme encouraged people to head into the city centre after 5pm to visit restaurants, the theatre, cinema and shops.
He added: “We’re all been through a lot in the last year and a bit, but the hospitality and retail sector have probably struggled the most.
“But as you can see, great entrepreneurs in the city. We see a cafe culture blossoming.”
Mr Watson said he hopes the organisation’s track record over the last five years might speak for the importance of the BID, such as initiatives like the installation of San Francisco-style parklets on Huntly Street and Holburn Junction, improved signage, creative lighting and deep cleaning of Union Street.
He added: “We need to make sure that our city centre is fit for purpose and relevant for the future, embracing and delivering solutions that are fit for modern progressive urban centres, as well as protect the diversity, vibrancy and safety of the city centre for when businesses return to their offices, ensuring employees can enjoy and benefit from an appealing city centre which will help attract and retain staff and tenants.
“It will allow us to continue to improve the maintenance of buildings and derelict space and maintain a Granite City we can all be proud of.”
‘Aberdeen Inspired champions our city centre’
Supporters of the BID have already given their voice to the campaign, emphasising the message that in light of ongoing events, Aberdeen’s city centre has never needed backing more.
Allison Chaney, store manager at M&S St Nicholas, said: “Aberdeen Inspired has remained a vocal and united force in the city centre’s battle for survival since the first lockdown in March 2020.
“It plays a key role championing our city centre and its vital place at the heart of Aberdeen.
“Whether it’s creating initiatives like the Aberdeen Gift Card or providing advice and support to individual businesses, having a BID in place to drive our city centre forward is more important now than it ever has been.
“Without it, Aberdeen risks falling behind other towns and cities across the country.”
At just 1% of rateable value, the average levy equates to around £5 per week, less than a couple of cups of coffee.
It is the lowest BID levy in the UK, and in recognition of the challenging times faced by businesses as a result of the pandemic, the levy in Aberdeen will be reduced by half in the first term of 2021-22, dropping to just 0.5% of rateable value for the first year.
In addition to the levy payments, which go to support city centre improvements and initiatives, the BID brought in an additional £2million in other funding in 2020, almost double what is collected by levy.
An achievement that would not have been possible without Aberdeen Inspired, it means that for every £1 of levy collected, at least £2 is invested in the city centre.
Craig Stevenson, Bon Accord Centre manager, echoed the importance of retaining the BID for the next five years.
He said: “I think Aberdeen Inspired has done a really good job for the city centre over the last years or so, and at this time it’s without a doubt it’s tough.
“And it makes it even more critical that Aberdeen Inspired is in place to do their bit for our city centre.”
Now with restrictions easing further as of Monday, Mr Stevenson says he hopes this would incentivise shoppers to come out to the centre.
He added: “There’s definitely a sense of people wanting to come out of lockdown, wanting to do normal things.
“I think hopefully, a positive result from Scottish Government will encourage more people to come out and just give them that little bit of confidence.
“It’s a good experience, it’s nice to be out, the sun is shining. It’s a pleasant experience in Aberdeen.”
The BID footprint covers Union Street and the surrounding streets, including Broad Street, Market Street, Bridge Street, Huntly Street and Holburn Junction.
For more information, visit www.aberdeeninspired.com