Linen Quarter Business Improvement District (LQ BID) has noted an increase in the number of businesses preparing to welcome their employees back to the office in recent weeks but suggests that the current stay at home guidance is inhibiting a wider return.
The Linen Quarter is home to over 400 businesses of various sizes, across various sectors and their employees are a key part of the ecosystem that maintains the vitality of the City Centre.
Chris McCracken, Managing Director at Linen Quarter BID, said: “Since the early days of the pandemic LQ BID predicted that the hybrid model was likely to become a permanent innovation, and we welcome the increased flexibility and productivity that this model can provide. However, the realisation of this new normal is being inhibited by the current work from home guidance, which is now past its sell by date and actively discouraging companies from embracing progressive ways of working.
“The office remains at the heart of professional life, and Belfast City Centre is still the engine for creativity and innovation right across the region. Pre-pandemic, professionals working in the city made a huge contribution to both the day-time and night-time economy, supporting the businesses that in many cases have been established to cater for them. From coffee meetings with clients and after-work drink with colleagues, we need to see the safe return of offices so our city can thrive.”
To incentivise its members to support businesses across the Linen Quarter, LQ BID has created ‘Welcome Back’ packs which include a £25 gift card which can be used across the District. LQ BID’s dedicated Street Ambassadors will be on hand to safely distribute the packs and provide helpful support to returning office workers as they navigate their way throughout the changes across the Linen Quarter.
Whilst awaiting the return of businesses to the city throughout the pandemic, LQ BID focused on revitalising and transforming the District’s shared spaces. It recently revealed its pioneering parklet, a development in conjunction with partners from Belfast City Council, the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure.
The 10 metre parklet, located on the corner of Linenhall Street and Clarence Street provides an enjoyable social space for colleagues to congregate and promotes the contemporary city environment that citizens have come to demand.
Chris continued: “The reality is that the pandemic has changed cities forever. Our ambition is to create shared, sustainable spaces that will drive footfall to restore economic vitality and create environments for safe and positive social interaction – places people want to spend time.
“Earlier this year we ran a consultation asking for opinion on our proposed upgrades to public areas. We also used this as an opportunity to explore public attitudes on how we use our city, in light of the pandemic. Interestingly, respondents said they would value social space and active transport with 95% in support of removing car parking spaces to improve public areas and 91% in support of creating improved cycle lanes and new pedestrian routes.
“In addition, over 80% of respondents also revealed concern for hospitality and retail businesses and would support LQ BID initiatives that improve their ability to trade. This tells us that our vision for a re-imagined city centre is aligned with the public’s.
“We will soon be installing a Boardwalk at Linenhall Street which will extend service opportunities for hospitality businesses, supporting them to thrive. Our largest project, a new social hub at Brunswick Street, will include a container café, open air seating, an outdoor stage and games area, creating an entertainment hub for families, friends and tourists to enjoy. New lighting in Blackstaff Square and new planting right across the Linen Quarter will enhance how people feel about the District’s aesthetic.”
For more information on LQ BID visit linenquarter.org.