It’s almost 10 years since the Victoria Business Improvement District was set up. So what has it achieved?
Mission – to boost the local economy by turning “grey” Victoria into an exciting destination to enjoy in its own right.
Victoria BID was set up in 2010 to stop the area being seen as just a transport hub to pass through on the way to somewhere else.
A decade on, and perceptions have changed.
The area has transformed into a place of entertainment, with new restaurants and leisure facilities.
Victoria is more appealing both to tourists and visitors, but also to staff working in the growing number of businesses here.
A decade is a long time
London of 10 years ago seems like a distant memory.
Gordon Brown was still in Number 10 and no one had heard the term “Brexit”.
The city was reeling from the financial crash. It was also gearing up to host the 2012 Olympics.
“If you think back to then, it wasn’t the best time to be asking businesses for money,” says Nigel Hughes, chairman of Victoria BID.
“But we felt Victoria needed to have the resources of a BID to bring it forward in all areas.”
The Victoria Business Improvement District is both led and funded by local businesses.
Research in 2009 had shown an appetite for the project.
Now developments like Nova and Eccleston Yards have enticed a slew of new restaurants to the area.
Plus Market Halls has opened bringing some much-loved London street food brands.
“We’ve got a new theatre in The Other Palace. We’ve got a cinema in the Curzon. So there’s a lot more here to attract people,” says Nigel.
Nigel explains that a key objective for the BID is to boost the quality and quantity of green spaces.
A huge living wall (pictured) has been installed on the façade of The Rubens hotel.
“Even though it’s bordered by St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace, Victoria has actually been perceived as quite a grey area.”
There is also a project to transform Christchurch Gardens into “a lovely gem of a garden”, he said.
Many of the improvements to Victoria driven by the BID are more subtle – such as implementing free WiFi, or tables and chairs in public spaces.
But there are also big public events, such as food markets or supporting the Lumiere light exhibition.
And the future?
“What we’d like to see is a traffic scheme that reduces the impact of vehicles on the area, but also of the divisions caused by these major ring-roads,” he says.
And then of course there’s the station: the country’s second busiest in terms of passenger numbers, with some 75 million journeys made to or from it in 2018. By comparison, Heathrow Airport was the port of 65 million journeys last year.
“It’s a huge volume of people and the mainline station just isn’t up to it,” Nigel says.
“When Crossrail 2 comes, it’s got to be ready to receive it. That’s probably 10 years away, but it’s going to take that amount of time to get the station fit for purpose.”