Preston is on the verge of an economic boom as we enter 2018.
That is the view of the city’s movers and shakers as a series of projects and initiatives come to fruition in the coming months.
Entrepreneur Simon Rigby has invested £10m in the Guild Hall, adding to its appeal and giving it a much-needed update.
And the £3m Preston Markets revamp is nearly complete, with the city council-led Markets Quarter initiative likely to see a cinema, new restaurants and much more to attract visitors into the city.
Guild Group head of operations Richard Simkin said the Guild Hall revamp had acted as a catalyst for other plans around it in the city.
He said new owner Simon Rigby had poured £10m into the Guild Hall in the last three years.
Now that investment was paying off and Preston overall would benefit.
He said: “Simon has invested a lot of time and money in getting the place turned around.
“We have seen tangible evidence around the area that others have invested as well.
“One thing leads to another and it just snowballs.”
He added: “The only way is up. We are focused on driving a Preston boom, It WILL boom in the future - it could be five years off but Preston will definitely boom.”
The shows at the Guild Hall now offer a better mix.
Snooker, wrestling, MMA and a huge dance event have all brought many extra punters in.
The bar take in the Guild Hall - all important for promoters - has gone up from £100,000 in the first year to around £1m now.
Low booking fees keep ticket prices competitive.
The Guild Hall also now has its brand new multi-floor attraction Level - including a bowling alley, crazy golf, assault course, interactive darts and a street food restaurant.
The evidence of the Guild Hall’s influence can be seen in new outlets popping up in Miler Arcade and elsewhere in the city centre.
And the new hotel The Harris in the former Post Office building will open this year.
Mark Whittle, manager of Preston Business Improvement District, pictured below, is also full of optimism for the future and praise for Mr Rigby’s organisation.
He said: “We approach every new year with anticipation, and rightly so.
“We’re never surprised by the improvements and developments that occur as Preston continues to grow in presence. Our mantra has always been that together we achieve more – this is evident in many areas, not least at Winckley Square and through the partnerships the BID has forged with the businesses it strives to support and represent.
“Until relatively recently, businesses didn’t really have a collective voice, or an organisation they could turn to to support them. It has been, and will continue to be, a privilege to work with so many forward thinking, proud, passionate business people – all of whom are fighting hard to make Preston a great place to visit, invest and live.“
Mr Whittle added; “The work done by Simon Rigby and his team has been phenomenal. From the outset they were committed to securing and re-developing a key Preston asset.
“Preston has long had a good dining and bar scene, the introduction of Level will provide yet another definitive reason for people to visit. I can see Level being a key player in bridging the gap between the daytime and night-time economies of the city centre; we wholeheartedly support that.
“In addition, we have the Harris Hotel (in the former Post Office) due for completion next year, which again shows the level of private sector interest and investment in our great city. We have a great deal going for us not least a committed and talented business community but fantastic connectivity to the regions and that real pride in Preston which is vitally important in encouraging others to realise our city’s potential.
Mr Whittle added: “We’re always optimistic about Preston.
“ There’s always something major bubbling under the surface, take the UCLan Masterplan for example, an outstanding project that will not only bolster campus life for tens of thousands of students, many from international territories who choose to study at our first-class university, but the wider city too.
“There’s a renaissance in city centre living in Preston, much of this is owed to the work in and around Winckley Square, people are pro-actively choosing to live in the city centre, which is a real positive, not only for the development of that specific area but in supporting the hundreds of businesses in the locality. Investors are looking at Preston differently now, that can clearly be felt.“
Leader of Preston City Council, Coun Peter Rankin said: “It has been an exciting year of Preston, watching the progress on the new Preston Markets build, seeing Signature Living move into the former Post Office.
“And what about anticipating the opening of the new Level area of the Guild Hall with the latest promised being the wonderful Bonds ice cream parlour. We will also see the massive Bus Station brought up to date and comfortable for the public. “
2018, Preston’s “coming of age” year in which it will have been a city for 16 years, looks to be bringing with it more of the same positivity, growth and development. Prestonians can be proud of their city.