Bradford, United Kingdom - Bradford City Park is located at the heart of Bradford city centre. It was the signature project of the Bradford City Centre Masterplan and is now a multi-award winning public space and catalyst for the regeneration of the city. The completed project successfully transformed the public realm, opening up the city centre as a place for people to meet, hold events, entice visitors and attract investment.
Onemulti-award winning public space
In 2003 the city centre masterplan had a vision of opening up the city centre and creating a city park that would glue the city centre together. Four years of project consultation and development followed to turn this vision into a viable plan. The resulting scheme was well received by both local communities and the business sector, who felt it would boost the economy and enhance community relations.
In 2009, during the economic downturn, the Political Executive of the Council approved Council funding which, together with funds from the then Yorkshire Forward regional development agency and the Regional Transport Board, enabled the iconic City Park scheme to be delivered.
This crucial public sector investment sent a strong signal to the private sector and investors coming into Bradford, demonstrating the council’s commitment to the City Park and wider regeneration.
Even in the challenging economic climate in which this project was developed, it set out to deliver ambitious transformational goals. The investment in high quality materials has ensured that it has stood the test of time. This was key to the long-term impact it has had on Bradford and the benefits that it continues to deliver to this day through increased land values, new jobs and prosperity to the city and wider region.
The City Park was a joint project between the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Bradford Centre Regeneration - the city’s Urban Regeneration Company - and Yorkshire Forward.
Arcadis was responsible for Development and Project Management as well as delivering Cost and Strategic Regeneration Consultancy.
The business case
Key to securing the £25m needed to make this project a reality was a robust business case that enabled the cocktail of funding and stakeholder support to come together. This required clear demonstration of deliverability, as well as the outlining the expected benefits and impact in challenging economic times.
One of the ways the project partners built their own confidence in the business case was through robust lessons learnt activity. This focused on other comparable projects where the key ingredients required for success were identified. This also helped to create the evidence base to feed into the business case, demonstrating that the benefits targeted were realistic and the economic value forecast could be created.
A focus on community engagement was important to securing the investment needed to enable delivery and maintain wider stakeholder support. Public support was increased through a focused campaign designed to articulate the wider benefits of the project. This increased measured support for the park from 50% to 70%.
Wider stakeholder engagement was also critical and it was necessary to ensure that, as the project developed, it remained aligned to the varied aspirations of the numerous key stakeholders and the funders. This included demonstrating the economic benefit of the investment to Yorkshire Forward. In part this was achieved through a robust appraisal and transparent management of the costs, deliverability and benefits to be achieved by the project.
Lessons learned for public realm investment in a post-COVID world
Public realm has always played a key role in the creation of place and ultimately increases in value long term. This was true as the country recovered from a more ‘normal’ economic shock and recession in 2009, and will only be more true as people value public spaces and their ability to use them to an even greater degree in a post-COVID world.
Ambition is good, and transformative projects such as this can be investible and successful at any time in the economic cycle. Delivering projects such as this with robust control of costs and clarity of the benefits they will deliver will be more important than ever as funding is focused on the recovery and reinvention of high streets and town centres post-COVID.
When backed by a robust evidence base from previous similar interventions there is no reason that fundable business cases should not be developed for public realm investment. With an increased focus on public realm and its value to society expected in the future this should be easier than it has been historically, as long as both the economic and social value is properly quantified.
Aligning stakeholders at the start is important but being aware of the need to keep them engaged and supportive throughout project delivery and having a plan to do so is critical. This includes both the wider community and the key stakeholders and funders and should focus on an open and transparent approach which includes setting public realm interventions in the wider regeneration context.
Onemulti-award winning public space
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