The newly appointed manager for Peterborough’s Business Improvement District (BID) has spoken of the challenge of sowing the seeds for a bright future for the city centre.
But it is not just that keeping the flowers blooming in the city really is top of Pep Cipriano’s in-tray, it is the enormity of the expectations of the hundreds of businesses that see the BID as a new way of improving the fortunes of the centre.
Eighty four per cent of the 419 businesses within the BID area voted last November in favour of creating the new organisation.
Many will be paying a levy of 1.5 per cent of their rateable value for the privilege.
It will raise £1.8 million over the first five year term of the BID to fund the five main priorities thrashed out by businesses in months leading up to the vote.
Mr Cipriano (48) said: “It will be a challenging task.
“I think businesses will be demanding, and rightly so, but I think the key to my role will be communication between us, keeping them informed about what I am doing.
He said: “Relationship building is a massive part of the job.
“I want to be in front of businesses on a regular basis so they have the confidence in me that the BID is doing what it said it would do.”
Mr Cipriano said: “The BID is new to the city and so we will learn as we go along for the initial period so until we get some structures and flow going.
“I hope people don’t expect miracles tomorrow because that’s not the reality.”
Already leaders of Peterborough City Council, struggling with a £27 million funding shortfall and with Government officials looking keenly over their shoulders to make sure the budget balances, have been eyeing the BID as a vehicle that could pick up some of the local authority’s non-statutory tasks.
One of those is likely to be facilitating the filling of flower planters and hanging baskets in the city centre that the council earlier this month announced it would no longer do in a bid to save money.
Mr Cipriano said: “The planters is one of the first things I need to get cracking on.
“I’ll probably need some support from businesses and communities that might want to help us bring that to fruition.
He said: “Support might include obtaining soil bags or encouraging young people to help us do some planting.
“These things do take a bit of time and we need to understand cost and timings
“But it will happen - we will have planters with flowers in the city.”
“Whatever we come up with will have to get people excited about playing a part.
“We will need civic pride to be at the heart of this.”
Mr Cipriano, who was born in Peterborough and whose family founded Papa Luigi – the first UK pizza delivery service – and whose career includes senior press and marketing roles at Peterborough United Football Club and Peterborough City Council, said: “I’ve always wanted a job where I could help improve the city centre.
“It is very early days and there is a lot to take in and to understand
“But one of the good things is I’m reconnecting with former friends and colleagues across the business world and that helps straight away in that we have that relationship where we can talk openly about what we need to do.”
“There is a five year plan with the priorities within it and I’ll be working with the businesses and the board to understand which bits we tackle first.”
The five priorities agreed for the BID’s first five year term are creating events, making the city more welcoming, safe and secure, attracting new investment, improved signposting to help people find their way and highlight key attractions and areas and the consulting on public transport services.
Mr Cipriano said “In line with the priorities, another of my early tasks will be to recruit two people to be City Ambassadors. I hope to put out the job description soon.
"Events in the city are important and I want to add to what’s is already here.
"And I want to enhance the sense of community.
"We are a multi-cultural community and I think it is about trying to make the city more inclusive. We are very good at that anyway but we can always be better.
He said: “I need to make sure I’m here to support the businesses we will make a difference.
"There will be a different look and feel around Peterborough by the end of the first five years.”
A keen Peterborough United supporter, Mr Cipriano said it was disappointing the club had been relegated almost at the same time as he had become BID manager.
He said: “Posh is a big brand in the city but there are many more reasons why people will come here.
There is lots going on in Peterborough and we have the university opening soon and there is lots of other development going on.
He added: “I just want people to think that if they are not in Peterborough then they are missing out.”