A warm city welcome
Lincoln’s skyline continues to change rapidly on the back of new investments which are creating a buzz, which is helping to counter the tough start to 2011.
Despite being unable to escape local authority cutbacks, the increase in VAT and petrol price hikes, the city remains a magnet for newcomers who are bringing with them much-needed jobs.
At the same time, a new University of Lincoln complex is providing managers with good opportunities to top-up their skills and qualifications.
And, in support, Lincoln BIG (the city’s business improvement group) is working on wide-sweeping initiatives and new online projects, all of which are designed to encourage more shoppers to the city and help to boost traders’ takings.
On the commercial front, progress is being made on an exciting new hotel complex, DoubleTree by Hilton, which is shaping up on Brayford Wharf North, and which is poised to create up to seventy jobs.
Today partners Leigh Hall, Dean Wann and Richard Farrar of Brayford Hotels, which is behind the development, said the framework for the 115-bedroom facility is now in place. Despite the challenges caused by the extreme weather, it is also due to be finished on schedule.
The hotel, which is being built on the site of a former electricity works, is a further boost to the millions of pounds worth of regeneration work which has already taken place in Brayford Wharf North.
“The DoubleTree brand is a member of the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of hotels and has more than 230 hotel and resort locations across five continents. This will be the first new-build DoubleTree in the UK and will offer guests an upscale service,” said Mr Farrar.
“That means they will have everything they could wish for – even if that’s a freshly ground coffee delivered to their room at four o’clock in the morning!”
Patrick Fitzgibbon is Senior Vice President of Development for Hilton Worldwide in Europe and Africa.
“The new DoubleTree by Hilton Lincoln will be another fantastic addition to our UK portfolio of hotels, where we are consistently growing our multiple brand presence in a variety of locations.
“This will be our eighth in the UK and the twenty-seventh to be secured across Europe. This is a key growth brand for Hilton Worldwide and suits both conversion and new-build projects, in a combination of business and leisure destinations.”
Also coming on stream is the city’s new Range store, which is being created on the site of the old Bookers outlet at the Valentine Retail Park, off Tritton Road. It is also expected to create up to 100 new jobs.
Other jobs have been created with the arrival of a new nightclub in Silver Street, where Wahoo has taken the premises once occupied by the Chicago Rock Cafe.
Lincoln is also due to get a new wine bar, Bar 67, in the next few weeks.
The bar, which was in use when the Lincoln Hotel first opened in 1967, but which closed twenty-five years ago, is being brought back to life by Christopher Nevile and his sister Lady Elizabeth Arnold, who bought the hotel a few years ago.
Mr Nevile said: “Lincoln is a beautiful city and has a lot of trendy bars and traditional pubs, but there are few wine bars, which is why we decided to open Bar 67.
“As well as the decor having a 60s/70s feel, there are lots of cosy seating areas where people can sit in comfy chairs and chat without having to shout over the music. But it still feels quite modern in a retro kind of way!”
The bar’s new manager, Adrian Gray, was formerly a duty manager at the hotel. He is looking forward to opening the doors of the new bar to the public for a second time.
“Lincoln has been missing a wine bar, so I think Bar 67 is exactly what the city needs,” said Mr Gray.
And the University of Lincoln has launched its £6m Faculty of Business and Law, which has been created through the transformation of the former Lincolnshire Echo offices.
Known as the David Chiddick Building, this latest regenerative project by the varsity, has provided facilities which cater for full and part-time undergraduate study and courses and remote learning for bosses within local businesses, thanks to its Lincolnshire Learning and Management Centre.
Lincoln BIG is involved in a wide variety of projects and schemes to encourage more people to visit the city – whether to enjoy sightseeing, shopping, events, or all three – and spend with local shops and businesses.
Chief executive Matt Corrigan said this year is likely to prove challenging, but Lincoln BIG is determined to help traders in every way possible.
“Excitingly, this year we are looking to start year-round, late-night shopping, such as has been traditionally enjoyed by shoppers in the run-up to Christmas,” he said.
“Longer shopping hours would encourage more people to stay in the city centre in the evenings and also help shopkeepers to compete with the Internet and out-of-town stores,” said Mr Corrigan.
“Before Christmas shops offered late night shopping on a Thursday, and we are keen to stick to this night and invite shops to continue trading until 8pm. We hope to build leisure activities around this.”
Major stores, such as Marks & Spencer, BHS and Primark have already voiced their enthusiasm for the move, but Lincoln BIG is also encouraging independent shops to get on board too.
If this takes off, there could be a good spin-off for local bars and restaurants, if people decide to stay in town and also enjoy an evening meal or a drink in one the city’s many pubs and eateries.
A new website, www.shoplincoln.co.uk is also encouraging traders to post special deals for customers and people can go online to find out what’s happening before coming into town or after arriving, by using their mobile device.
The aim is to constantly keep updating the site with information about things to see, places to go and where to eat, and it already features deals from the city’s longer-standing and new businesses.
Efforts are also underway to create more tourist information points around Lincoln and the Lincoln Visitor Information Centre in Castle Hill is also looking to increase the variety of Lincoln-branded products it offers.
Lincoln’s Farmers’ Markets have already got a great following and now there’s even more good news on this front.
“On 5th March, we are due to stage the second of our new Regional Food Fairs, which are taking place on the first Saturday of every month in the St Mark’s area,” added Mr Corrigan.
“From 4th to 6th March the city will also host a popular Continental Market, bustling with everything from German sausages to French cheeses, jewellery and craft stalls.
“This will be based in Castle Hill, which also gives people a good opportunity to pop into the shops in Bailgate and on Steep Hill and to visit local attractions for free as part of the Discover Lincolnshire weekend,” said Mr Corrigan.
On 16th April, there is another celebration, when stallholders at the Castle Hill Farmers’ Markets mark its tenth anniversary.
While events are important in encouraging people to spend more time in the city centre, smart surroundings are too.
And Lincoln BIG has just put the finishing touches to the final part of its Gateway Project, which has breathed extra vitality into the Sincil Street, Cornhill and St Mary’s Street areas.
The latest work to be completed, which has been backed by European Regional Development Fund money, is the upgrading of pavements outside the city’s railway station and on the opposite pavement, and the creation of a new cycle parking area at the foot of Sincil Street, near to Imp Travel.
WARDENS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Steve Roney, Lance Hodgins and Martin Dunning are regularly spotted around Lincoln, wearing their distinctive purple sweatshirts – but not everyone realises what they do!
Contrary to popular beliefs, the trio of city wardens are employed by the Lincoln Business Improvement Group (Lincoln BIG), and they get involved in a huge range of tasks.
One minute you may spot them sprucing-up a bench seat and the next talking to the owners of a new business and telling them how the Business Improvement Group can help them.
The wardens may remove stickers and flyposting and they also have the power to issue Fixed Penalty Notices if they spot littering and dog fouling.
Steve, Lance and Martin are also great ambassadors for the city, because they also often find themselves giving directions to shoppers and pointing visitors in the direction of Lincoln’s top attractions.
Freshers and mature students alike are making the most of a stunning new £6 million University complex in Lincoln.
The wraps have come off the former Lincolnshire Echo offices, which have been transformed into the University of Lincoln’s Faculty of Business and Law.
Known as the David Chiddick Building, and officially opened by Professor Chiddick (the University’s former Vice Chancellor), this latest regeneration move by the varsity has created up-to-the-minute teaching and learning facilities.
The Faculty now caters for everyone from the aspiring business leader and lawyer of tomorrow, to today’s business owners and managers who want to polish their skills and qualifications.
The Brayford Wharf East building features a 250-seat lecture theatre, a sixty-seat Harvard style lecture theatre, a mock courtroom, language and IT lab and innovative ‘learning lounges’, which are designed to encourage better interaction between undergraduates, postgraduates and staff.
The building is also home to the Lincolnshire Leadership and Management Centre, (LLMC), which was funded with almost £1 million from the East Midlands Development Agency. This aims to help local business leaders to work alongside academic staff to develop high level-skills for Lincolnshire’s economy.
Professor Chiddick said: “It isn’t easy to build a Business School of this size and to make it work economically. It cannot be in isolation. It has to be physically, as well as psychologically, part of the business community.”
Already the facility is used by 2,000 full-time and many more part-time students and the LLMC is poised to swell that number.
Professor Chiddick said that in the current tough climate, the Business School can really make its mark.
“It is an international sales and research centre. At the other end of the spectrum it connects with other businesses to help them to boost their leadership capability, particularly within SMEs.”
Vice Chancellor Professor Mary Stuart said: “What I want it to do is to provide state-of-the-art teaching for students in the city and also to be a resource for the business community of Lincolnshire.”
Professor Stuart said the Faculty can help businesses which find it difficult to take time out, by offering distance learning and tailor-made courses.