Yes. Market Street was once one of the cities main shopping thoroughfares with the Swan Arcade (Up until the early 1960s) and the Brown Muff & Co Department Store (Rackhams up until the 1980s). This is one of the main streets in the city centre and a popular place to get a bus out of town. It acts as a main street between the Broadway and Kirkgate / Darley Street shopping areas.
The Swan Arcade and its replacement are shown below.
What's wrong with it?
The street is now blighted by vacancies. On one side of the road there is the Ginger Goose pub (was vacant prior to 2011), Old Bank pub (vacant, shown below), four vacant shops (below), a couple of banks, three more vacant shops and a couple of other shops (Early Learning Centre and Bright House). On the other side of the road is two vacant shops, a bookies, Caffe Nero and Wool Exchange / Waterstones including Pizza Pieces, Mario's Hair Salon and the Exchange Bar. So it has nine vacant shops and a vacant pub and it isn't really a shopping street any more.
What could be done with Market Street?
The empty shops presents an opportunity, but bringing them back into use would require a lot of work:
- Planning restrictions limiting the uses to retail should be relaxed, there are already tools in place to do this.
- The Council should have an empty shops fund to provide assistance to retailers with fit out costs and rents (they do it in Rotherham, so why not Bradford)
- Property owners and the council should work in partnership, negotiating lower rates as part of an empty shops fund would be a start - what's better no rent or a low rent?
- Business rates are far too high, there is a rate relief scheme coming to Bradford too - but perhaps this is a national problem for empty shops
Market Street could be a vibrant street of bars, cafés and other shops. There must be plenty of entrepreneurs out there who would like to take on such projects but the rent, fit out and rate costs are significant barriers to entry. The Council providing assistance to new business start ups could ensure that the council are able to exercise control on the quality of businesses that take up the tenancies. Market Street is a key link between Forster Square and The Interchange and would be much more welcoming at night if vibrant businesses there. When (if) Westfield is developed, Bradford will have an area that nicely compliments the new retail offer for the city - helping the city be an attractive place to come and shop and spend time.
My poor Photo editing skills below show an 'imagining' of different uses in some of the Market Street shops.
There are probably many reasons why this wouldn't happen, but how many reasons are there for why it couldn't?