SOLIHULL: Arrival of ‘young professionals’ could offer a new dynamic
Solihull’s nightlife could be offered a big boost by an expected influx of “young professionals” living in the heart of the town, under plans taking shape.
It is hoped that future ambitions to build more than 1,100 homes across sites including Mell Square and Eastgate – the piece of land currently dominated by the council house – will help the evening economy.
Nick Page, the council’s chief executive, had spoken about these ambitions during an online briefing about the future of the town centre, hosted by Solihull Chamber of Commerce.
He said that the housing plans, which would cover the next 15 years, would cater for people moving into a “much more urbanised environment.”
“There is a definite market for that [from] all of our analysis, all of our trend data,” he told the meeting.
“We see that as being really important particularly for evenings and night-time economies.
“And we see that as a real, real opportunity.”
His comments chime with the council’s masterplan, which suggests that having a greater concentration of properties in the area will “encourage activity in the town centre beyond retail trading hours.”
Nurturing a strong leisure and hospitality industry is seen as key more generally, particularly given fears the pandemic will accelerate a reliance on internet shopping.
Tony Elvin, general manager of Touchwood shopping centre and the president of Solihull Chamber, said the importance of activities like dining out couldn’t be underestimated.
Addressing the webinar he argued the lure of a good day-out was one of the single most important tools for getting people into shopping areas.
“If you’re sitting on the sofa it’s easier to order online, but if you’re already here it’s easier to shop physically than it would be to faff around with your phone.”
Leader of Solihull Council, Cllr Ian Courts, has identified getting retail areas back on their feet as among the key strands of the Covid recovery plan.
Mr Page said that as restrictions eased there were encouraging signs.
“What we’re seeing from a council perspective is a slow but nevertheless marked opening up – we’re seeing more footfall, we’re seeing the car parks busier.
“But we’re confident that we’ll get there, even if we may see a slight delay in reopening up in or around June 21.”
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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