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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox and Lee Beel
Featured in the February 2014 issue

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Lincoln has plenty going for it and is poised to benefit from a pick-up in the economy as 2014 gets underway.

After another challenging year, long-standing independent and national retailers are looking forward to welcoming more shoppers, keen to see the return of the city’s first-time festive visitors and determined to encourage people to spend more time shopping and exploring Lincoln’s tourist attractions.

Lincoln Business Improvement Group (Lincoln BIG) has devised a busy calendar bursting with events and it is looking to build on a range of initiatives aimed at supporting traders, driving up footfall and, in turn, business fortunes.

Lincoln BIG chief executive, Matt Corrigan said: “Lincoln prides itself on its ability to offer shoppers a fantastic mix of national and niche shopping, whether people find themselves in the lower, central or upper High Street, the Cornhill, Sincil Street, The Strait, Steep Hill or Bailgate areas.

“The city continues to have the power to attract more well-known retailers and is also a magnet for niche ventures. Budding entrepreneurs are encouraged and given a warm welcome.

“But Lincoln is on the brink of major physical changes, thanks to heavy investment on the infrastructure and transportation fronts and these will create further opportunities which need to be grasped,” said Mr Corrigan.

“In Brayford Wharf East, work has already started on the first of two new pedestrian footbridges which will span the railway – the second will be built in the High Street itself.

“Work is also due to begin on the long-awaited East-West Link Road in September, which could lead to the prospect of pedestrianising the stretch of the High Street between the railway and St Mark’s area.

“These, together with a longer-term plan to combine the railway station with the bus station to create a new transport interchange, are all designed to help the city to work more cohesively and be more attractive and welcoming to visitors.”

Businesses are also looking forward to a start being made on the city’s Eastern Bypass in the autumn. It is expected to take two years to complete.

Returning to the High Street, today’s shopper will notice that further progress has been made on the £9 million transformation of the Waterside Shopping Centre, paving the way for new arrival H&M later this year and a city centre branch of Next.

High Street fashion house River Island is due to launch its new outlet in mid-February, following the construction of the outlet on the site of two old units (just doors away from its current High Street home).

Shoppers who have not visited the city’s upper High Street for some time will find long-standing favourites such as Ruddocks – established for more than 100 years – continuing to trade alongside more recent arrivals, such as Carluccio’s.

This section of the High Street offers everything from a real mix of retailers to themed bars – but its enhancement by way of investments is not all down to the city’s newer arrivals. Ruddocks recently expanded with the launch of a traditional tearoom, Henry’s.

The quirky Strait continues to buzz with long-established businesses such as Goodies Sweet Shop, which has been joined by enterprises such as The Cheese Society Shop – following an expansion move by Kate O’Meara, who also owns The Cheese Society Café in St Martin’s Lane.

Visitors and shoppers willing to tackle the challenge of a climb up Lincoln’s award-winning 2,000-year-old Steep Hill will be rewarded with the chance to discover more niche shops, eateries and galleries, as well as Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle. And more retail therapy is waiting in the popular Bailgate area.

The city’s Lindongate project remains high on Lincoln’s development wish-list. Lindongate would see the transformation of part of Lincoln city centre. It includes plans for a major amount of high quality retail space, improved pedestrian access, a new footbridge, city centre parking spaces, riverside restaurants and a public transport interchange.

Led by Lincolnshire Co-operative and commercial agent Banks Long & Co the development was granted outline planning permission by the City of Lincoln Council in October 2012.

Lincolnshire Co-operative spokeswoman, Emma Snedden said: “Work is continuing to bring the Lindongate scheme forward. We were pleased to accomplish one of the first small steps in 2013, which was the demolition of the old Grand Hotel and the creation of a new temporary shoppers’ car park, which is being run by the City of Lincoln Council.

“As this is such a major development, there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done behind the scenes, involving a lot of parties, before each element of the scheme can progress. Those efforts are ongoing. We believe we’ll have further news to share later in 2014.”

Tourism – which currently attracts 3.4 million visitors a year to Lincoln – contributes £140m annually to the local area and this is expected to grow over the coming months.

Visit Lincoln Partnership manager, Emma Tatlow said: “A vibrant and growing visitor economy has a positive impact on a place. It leads to increased investment, higher footfall and, therefore, more people spending money locally.”

Tourism also supports new and exciting cultural activities and events. Lincolnshire Chamber said that, while businesses had continued to cope with tough challenges during 2013, 2014 had been greeted with greater optimism as signs of renewed economic confidence returned to the county’s economy.

That had been recognised after the Quarterly Economic Business Survey – which gives a snapshot of the health of Lincolnshire’s economy – recorded three consecutive quarters of growth in 2013.

Chamber chief executive, Simon Beardsley said: “Lincoln is a vibrant city, with a great mix of activities, and the Lincolnshire Chamber supports the visitor economy through the Visit Lincoln project, which promotes the city as a great place to work, visit, live and study.

“This has provided opportunities to work with Lincolnshire’s tourism businesses and provide them with the tools they need to flourish and make Lincoln an attractive destination for investment.”

Mr Beardsley added: “The Chamber has seen a rise in its membership and I’m looking forward to refreshing its support packages for businesses working in all sectors.”

The continued success of Lincoln’s businesses means that it is vital they have access to the skilled workers they need to meet a rise in demand for their products and services. This is an area where the city’s higher education establishments are already working hard to stay ahead of the game.

The University of Lincoln, Bishop Grosseteste University and Lincoln College are liaising closely with businesses to produce people who are equipped to hit the ground running when they leave the classroom.

They are also encouraging and supporting new entrepreneurs who, in turn, will hopefully go on to create more local jobs.

THE TOURISM EFFECT
When it comes to driving Lincoln’s prosperity, the city’s multi-million-pound tourism industry certainly has the power to boost its fortunes.

Visit Lincoln Partnership manager, Emma Tatlow said: “Lincoln faces perhaps its most exciting opportunity yet.

“We’ve seen the city grow and change considerably over the past decades. The University of Lincoln, as well as considerable public and private sector investment over the past few years, have driven that change.

“In 2015 Lincoln will be thrust into the international spotlight as the Lincoln Castle Revealed project will be complete in time to open on the 800th Anniversary of the 1215 Magna Carta.

“Development work at the Waterside Shopping Centre will also be finished and the Bomber Command Memorial at Canwick is also due to be delivered in 2015.

“This investment is predicted to significantly increase the number of visitors coming to Lincoln.They will be spending more time and money in the city and this uplift will have an impact on businesses across the city and beyond.”

Shops, pubs and restaurants are expected to benefit, as well as hotels and tourist attractions.

“It is important that this growth is sustainable, that our heritage assets are preserved and that the quality of life for residents is bettered,” said Emma.

“We want to ensure that visitors arriving at the city’s railway station are warmly welcomed and that they can easily get to where they want to be. The welcome at their accommodation needs to be right and the provision of information, signage and the quality on offer are also important.

“A positive experience is likely to lead to that visitor recommending Lincoln to up to eight of their friends and family members, which is an effective way of marketing!”

UNIVERSITY CAMPUS EFFECT
Developments on and around the University of Lincoln’s Brayford campus will continue apace in 2014.

The University is investing in the creation of new research and teaching facilities for the Schools of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Pharmacy.

The new Science and Innovation Park – being created in partnership with Lincolnshire Co-operative – will provide over 6,000 square metres of new teaching, learning and research space. It will also bring together previously separate groups of researchers and enable a whole new generation of scientists to join the University’s research community.

The migration of furniture, equipment and staff is expected to take place in July and August 2014, ahead of the full building operation from September 2014.

The University of Lincoln is also poised to provide more research and development opportunities by creating its new Schools of Mathematics and Chemistry.

The fact that a £6.8 million investment came from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) is a sign of the confidence funders have in the University of Lincoln and its capability to respond directly to the needs of local, regional and national employers.

The last twelve months has seen an unprecedented level of construction and refurbishment activity across the Brayford Pool campus. Virtually every building on campus has been improved.

The Art, Architecture & Design building was completed in August 2013. Students and staff in Conservation and Restoration, Creative Advertising, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Interactive Design are now based in the extension, bringing these subject areas into the heart of the Brayford campus.

Improvements to Library Square are also finished, with new trees, outdoor seating, and an elevated stage for outdoor performances. A new boulevard runs from Library Square through to the Science Centre.

In July 2013, the University was successful in its bid, along with the Lincolnshire Echo and Lincolnshire Co-operative, for £1 million of funding from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.

Targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), based and operating within LN1 to LN6 postcodes, the fund is expected to support around twenty businesses – through grants of between £20,000 and £100,000 – leading to the creation of sustainable new jobs.

University of Lincoln vice chancellor, Professor Mary Stuart said: “Securing this funding is evidence of our desire to see the city prosper and maximise job growth potential. This investment will be of direct benefit to many local businesses and the wider impact will be seen across Lincoln, offering numerous employment opportunities.”

WATERSIDE SHOPPING CENTRE LATEST
Lincoln’s Waterside Shopping Centre started 2014 with a brand new look, as the first phase of its £9 million redevelopment finished and work on Phase Two of its transformation got underway.

Capital & Regional, the specialist retail property company which owns the centre, received planning permission for the multi-million- pound project in early 2013, and appointed Simons Group to oversee the renovation.

Since the project started in July 2013, the shopping centre has seen huge changes. Not only did New Look unveil a grand makeover and extension late in 2013, but the food court was relocated to the centre’s ground level, allowing Burger King to open for longer.

Last month, an iconic image of Lincoln Cathedral was removed from the upper mall, revealing new escalators and making shops Superdrug and Internacionale easier to get to from the High Street, while also creating a more open atmosphere within the centre.

During 2014, shoppers will continue to see dramatic transformations at the Waterside, as attention turns to the rear of the centre, where the open area on the ground and upper levels will be replaced by a pair of two-storey retail units, which are due to house fashion giants H&M and Next.

Waterside Shopping Centre general manager, Roy Greening said: “The completion of Phase One is a significant milestone in the Waterside’s transformation.

“We’re halfway through the redevelopment and about to start work on the most exciting part of the plan, completely transforming the arena area of the centre – removing the old escalators and completely reconfiguring the rear of the centre to make space for our new additions, H&M and Next.

“Our vision is steadily becoming a reality, and with so much change still to come throughout 2014, the people of Lincoln can look forward to an even more fantastic shopping experience at the Waterside this year.”

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