It’s slowly starting to feel like a proper, distinct area. And the Commercial District’s BID has now set out £4m wishlist to create a ‘beacon of business excellence’.
What does that mean? It means they’re calling for superfast broadband and free WiFi. Of course they are. Come on Council, make it happen. They’re after a dedicated BID police team too. The theory is that it brings more visibility, closer working relationships – it’s the continuation of a first-ever UK Bid-funded police initiative, started last September.
The Commercial District takes in Lord Street, Old Hall Street and Water Street and out to Pall Mall – the city’s office heartland, employing more than 60,000 people. But what do they all do?
The fact is, there are amazing, fascinating companies lurking within these grand old buildings. Some of which have been here for 300 odd years. Some of which have been here for three months. But many of which have stories to tell.
It would be great if, for one week, they did a Commercial District version of the artists’ Open Studios event: where companies burst out of their buildings and stopped us in our tracks. Rathbones staged an intervention on Exchange Flags, offering brilliant investment advice while you waited for a latte at Gourmet Coffee. Bruntwood had a architecture exhibition, showing us what they’re working on: asking what we think. Shiverpool give us a pop-up spooky mini tour. Downtown Liverpool staged a sexy intervention or two. The mysteries of Burbo Bank windfarm were explained to us, by way of a hairdryer and a basin of water. I dunno, I’ve not really given this much thought.
The maritime sectors employs 30,000 people in this city. What tales can they tell us of the high seas? That’s got to be better than grabbing a butty in Philpotts and schlepping back to eat it at your desk with a copy of the Shortlist?
Because if we don’t work there, we don’t know what really goes on in the Commercial District. And, if we did, what’s the betting we’d be well impressed? We know the stories we know – we know about Leaf, and Sound City and Apposing and Signature Living. But it’s the unknown unknowns that we’re itching to hear. And my hunch is they’re hiding in the Commercial District.
BID is currently overseeing a £1.6m scheme to improve the public realm in key areas of the district, and recently hosted Liverpool’s first themed Restaurant Week, celebrating the real and thrilling resurgence of the area’s after-dark offer. It wants to introduce a new on-street Ambassador service and public art programme. Careful now. No more fibre glass animal casts to paint PLEASE.
What else does it need? Well, it certainly doesn’t need those gurning Lamppost hangings. You can hear the marketing agency’s spiel: we need to humanise the district, show that the area’s full of really interesting creative people. Death by pitch. It probably doesn’t need empty buildings covered in tarpaulins saying ‘This is the Commercial District’ – er, no, this is an empty office block.
Wouldn’t it be fun to find out what wonders lie within? That’s the best way to show us the Commercial District’s vital signs. Yes, there’s IFB – but, hands up, who’s planning a day trip there?