A £31m funding package to help Coventry get ready for its role as the UK City of Culture 2021 was today (Friday June 28) given the go-ahead by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The money will be used to enhance and improve the city centre ahead of the arrival of millions of visitors for City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
Both events are set to give a huge boost to the cultural identity and reputation of the region offering an opportunity to increase its attractiveness as a place in which to invest, live, work and study.
The funding package will build on the city council’s own work to change perceptions of Coventry so it can better attract investment, retain talent and increase visitor tourism.
Previous work has seen more than £150m spent over the last eight years on improvements to the city’s public spaces and infrastructure.
The £31.6m awarded by the WMCA Board today will be used to help fund the Coventry City Centre First – City of Culture project which involves improvements to:
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who also chairs the WMCA, said: “The UK City of Culture offers a unique and golden opportunity for Coventry to showcase itself to the world.
“Coupled with the Commonwealth Games, where thousands of visitors will stay in and visit the city, it really is absolutely vital that we make not only a wonderful first impression but create a lasting legacy for those living in Coventry.
“That is why I am thrilled that the WMCA Board has today agreed to make this funding available to help do just that.”
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA Board member, added: “I’m delighted that we have secured this funding to invest in our city centre. We are set for a wonderful year as city of culture but we have also committed to ensuring we provide a lasting legacy for local people. This money will help us to fulfil our commitment.
“We will use it to transform areas of the city centre including Upper Precinct, Market Way and Smithford Way as well as the area outside The Wave where we will take the best of the old and combine it with the best of the new.
“These are exciting times for our city and we can’t wait to get started.“
The WMCA Board was told today how the work of Coventry City Council to change perceptions was already making a real difference in the look and feel of the city.
A report setting out the case for funding said the work had put more focus on links to culture, tourism and leisure alongside repurposing properties that had previously been used for retail.
Jonathan Browning, chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), said: “This funding decision enhances the area’s commitment to ensuring Coventry provides the best possible UK City of Culture in 2021.
“By investing in the public realm and infrastructure in Coventry city centre we will be providing an attractive location for visitors who will not only be travelling from the UK and beyond but also for local people.
“Agreeing this investment highlights the importance of partnership-working between the WMCA, Coventry City Council and businesses through the CWLEP and our combined efforts will leave a legacy for the region.”