Supporters of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter pledged to invest more money in refurbishing old city buildings and filling empty shops as the project celebrated its third birthday.
The scheme looks after the Lace Market, Hockley and Sneinton Market areas by backing independent and creative businesses, shops and restaurants.
It estimates 811 jobs have been created in the area since it was founded three years ago.
The scheme’s chairman Craig Chettle said: “Anyone who walked around Hockley in the early 2000s would notice there were a lot of empty shops, now there are a lot less vacant shops because of our work.
“Our purpose is to redevelop spaces to get businesses to use them, survive in them and create new jobs.”
He added: “£55m was secured back in 2012, the Creative Quarter has only operated on a fraction of that money, but with that we’ve done a huge amount of things – we’ve created just under 200 apprenticeships and internships.”
The Creative Quarter is also behind a £4 million refurbishment of 46 creative spaces at Sneinton Market.
Since its completion at the start of May, 12 units have been occupied, but 34 remain unoccupied.
Craig Chettle, chairman of the Creative Quarter said: “Whilst we are slightly behind – the more people who move in, the more of a buzz the place has – come back in four weeks time and it will feel even more buzzing.”
Local business owners said they believe the project has made a visible difference to the area – but some said they had hoped to see a faster transformation at the market.
Haydar Sagir, of GB Cafe, on Gedling Street said: “The market area looks clear, before it was a little bit rough, but the shops are still empty and something needs to be done to fill those units.
“It looks clean and nice, but if they are empty there doesn’t seem to be any point – I think instead of just creative businesses, all businesses should be able to rent.
“If I’m healthy, I hope to see another 10 years of this area improving, in the last two years business has grown. If the units are full, more people will come and my business will be more successful.”
Circus Hub is one of the businesses to move into the new creative spaces in Sneinton Market, and uses its unit to rehearse aerial stunts and performances.
Ria Ashcroft, its artistic director, said: “We need lots of height to rehearse and train, we’ve been looking for a space in Nottingham for years.
“When we tell landlords that we want to hang from the ceiling, many of them are put off. It’s hard to find somewhere high enough, so we were quite lucky to find this place.”
Kathy McArdle, chief executive of the Quarter, said: “The key thing the Creative Quarter has done is generate 811 jobs in this area. We’ve also really regenerated this area; the refurbishment of Sneinton Market and the development of Space2 which have given us lots of new creative workspace.”
We need to re-purpose our beautiful heritage buildings
Part of the Creative Quarter’s aims is to be 20 per cent sustainable by 2020, and Ms McArdle says this will take time before it can be achieved.
She said: “While it’s going to take some time, I think making this area more low-carbon and having green infrastructure will going to be achievable by 2020.”
She added: “A key thing we are yet to do is take on some of the beautiful heritage buildings in this area and give them purpose for use.
“The area is improving all the time, while giving opportunities to young people and supporting local businesses.”