Design Story: Gareth Neill, Manager of Destination CQ Business Improvement District
Gareth is Manager of Destination CQ Business Improvement District one of our new partner organisations for this year’s Belfast Design Week. Gareth has a background in town planning, regeneration and economic development. Gareth has a specific interest in the space between buildings and what is often considered dead space and how it can be animated, for example Writers Square within the Cathedral Quarter which suffers from a lack of footfall. Gareth is also interested in buildings with active frontage and ensuring all areas of the Cathedral Quarter are accessible by all.
About Destination CQ
Destination CQ Business Improvement District is a private sector-led company, working with businesses in the Cathedral Quarter and its surrounding environs to improve the area as a place in which to work, live and visit.
The BID covers an area of approximately 750 properties, of which 500+ contribute financially to projects designed to improve the area, leading to a budget of circ. £250,000 per year for which the BID is responsible for managing.
The Cathedral Quarter is one of Belfast’s most vibrant inner city neighbourhoods characterised by arts and culture, restaurants, entertainment, independent shops and educational centres. Stretching from the big fish on the Lagan, to Sailor Town and across to Smithfield and Union on the west side, the Cathedral Quarter is the creative heart of the city.
Now home to venues, galleries, festivals and some of Belfast best restaurants, cafés and hotels, the area is one of the most exciting places in Northern Ireland to live, work and visit. The thriving and entrepreneurial character of the area harnesses a business community that is home to start ups, professional services firms and is continually developing and evolving.
You worked in a similar role within Newcastle upon Tyne, what were some of the most effective urban design strategies adopted that you would be keen to see brought to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter?
Temporary seating that can be added and removed is an easy, affordable and simple way to transform an area. Multi-use spaces can also work well, for example closing roads to traffic at weekends and putting down Astroturf means busy commercial areas mid-week can be transformed into family friendly areas at the weekend for kids to play, sports and other activities such as markets to take place.
Can you tell us about any future plans Destination CQ has for the Cathedral Quarter?
We will shortly be opening a funding pot for anyone interested in running events and activities within the Cathedral Quarter area that will bring additional value to the area. Applications will be opening shortly, but in the meantime we are open to enquiries for anyone interested.
The Cathedral Quarter area is the home for many arts, culture and creative organisations in Belfast, as the area develops and is commercialised are there any plans in place by Destination CQ to ensure the needs of these organisations remain a focus?
Yes the Cathedral Quarter Trust are a founding partner of Destination CQ The Cathedral Quarter Trust (CQT) exists to develop and promote the historic Cathedral Quarter area of Belfast as the thriving cultural and creative heart of the city – a place that is dynamic, exciting and welcoming for all. This ensures that despite development in the area, there will still be a focus on arts, culture and the creative industries within the area.
What do you hope to get out of getting the BID involved with Belfast Design Week
I hope that by getting involved with Belfast Design Week we will encourage new conversations on future development and investment in the area, raise the profile of organisations and stakeholders in the Cathedral Quarter engage different players in the design industry and promote the value of urban design in good town planning/development.
Finally what’s your favourite bit of the Cathedral Quarter at present?
The Sunflower, its anonymous and inclusive and welcoming to all
You can get more info and details on how to apply for our Urban Design Challenge here