Expressions of interest are being sought for two pilot programmes aimed at promoting vibrancy in Belfast, developed in response to challenges experienced by businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first pilot, funded by Belfast City Council, the Vacant to Vibrant capital grant scheme, aims to incentivise both property owners and potential occupiers to bring vacant spaces in Belfast city centre back into use and support revitalisation.
It’s hoped the pilot will attract interest from start-ups, independent retailers, social enterprises and even cultural and voluntary organisations.
Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, Councillor Ryan Murphy said: “As part of our Future City Centre Programme we want to see more diversification of how spaces are used within the city centre, while also bringing vacant units back into use.
“The face of the High Street has changed over recent years and city centres are having to adapt, and we want to see creativity when it comes to uses for these spaces and see how they can be transformed.
“This capital grant scheme will offer assistance to improve individual properties and help existing businesses expand; but we also hope it will attract new businesses into the city centre. This, in turn, will create higher quality streetscapes and more vibrancy, increase footfall and spend, sustain jobs and create new employment opportunities, so it’s a really good news story for Belfast.”
The second initiative, Supporting Vibrant Business Destinations is a partnership with Department for Communities, and will offer support to traders and business groups outside the core city centre and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The Department for Communities has provided funding of £475,000 towards the programme.
The programme will support business groups that wish to set up a new, constituted business association or reenergise existing business associations that have been inactive. Following successful completion of an expression of interest, business groups will be supported to develop an area-based action plan and have the opportunity to apply for funding up to a maximum of £40,000.
Councillor Murphy added: “Retailers, particularly those who are not in our city centre or on the High Street, have been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, and indeed the challenges that existed before Covid.
“We want to support businesses and help to strengthen the competitiveness of business destinations along Belfast’s arterial routes and make them more vibrant. We’re keen to gauge the appetite for both these pilots, so I would encourage those who are eligible to get in touch, complete the expression of interest and give us their views to help shape and deliver these important initiatives.”
Expressions of interest for the Vacant to Vibrant capital grant scheme need to be completed online at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/vacanttovibrant by 4pm on Monday, 28 February 2022.
Expressions of interest for Supporting Vibrant Business Destinations will be accepted until May 2023. To find out more, go to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/vibrantdestinations