News from the Reading UK Board Room - Feb 2020

Two weeks ago (30 Jan 2020) Adam Jacobs, Chairman of Reading UK, and his Board held its annual Away Day with guests from the business community.

The Board reflected on some great achievements in 2019 including the votes for two Business Improvement Districts now covering the whole of the town centre within the IDR;  the launch of the arts and cultural listings web site;  a new relocation guide for use in recruitment by local companies; new videos of the town, the launch of the Reading Tourism Group to develop new packages to attract visitors to the Great West Way from overseas; launching a new digital skills training centre - the Curious Lounge.

On the agenda was the future of the town centre. Reading Town Centre is still vibrant and has many strengths and a strong USP, however the Board did raise issues about getting the basics right in the here-and-now, such as an improved public realm, reducing begging on the streets and the poor welcome we give our visitors.  Many visitors pass through  the Station and on to other parts of Reading such as Green Park, the University, Royal Berkshire Hospital and the Madejski Stadium and we need to make these journeys more seamless, linking the centre with outlying places.

The Board acknowledged the pressures on retailing and pledged to undertake some research and produce a statement giving indicators to what the future town centre could and should look like, with a move to green, more community-focused areas, more leisure experiences, a focus on arts and culture, exploiting our heritage and creating a greater sense of connectivity between the quarters of the town and pride in the town by all who live, work, visit and do business.

Among the other board priorities for the coming year are:-

  • further raise the profile of Reading and promote the arts and culture as a key lifestyle attractor to new recruits, by strengthening Reading’s marketing capacity with new staff
  • Increase the level of input to our work by strengthening the Board with new Board members reflecting the breadth and diversity of the Reading economy

The Board’s aspirations, as announced at Reading UK’s annual economic forum, are to:

  • Open an innovation space in the town centre to accelerate ideas and new ventures
  • Open an Urban Room - an exhibition centre open to the public displaying, debating and consulting on the past, present and future of Reading. Reading recently launched a Vision for Reading as a smart and sustainable City by 2050 and the Urban Room will chart the transition learning from the past, responding to pressure and welcoming new companies and new investors and developers.  We will be reaching out to companies in the town centre with spare space to help us in this objective in partnership with Reading University School of Architecture.

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