Patricia Bench has been development manager for HammersmithLondon for five years and has now added to her workload with the job of manager of a neighbouring business improvement district, Bayswater Village. She tells Rupert Basham about her vision for Bayswater and Queensway.
ANYONE who has ever been to New York will tell you that Greenwich Village is a charming, bohemian part of the city – a breath of fresh air amid the hustle and bustle of a city that never sleeps.
Its close proximity to more touristy locations such as Times Square and Broadway allows visitors see a different side of the Big Apple without travelling out of town.
Its unique character makes it an attraction in its own right and this is something that Patricia Bench, manager of BID Bayswater Village, is trying to replicate in West London.
“Bayswater could be to central London what Greenwich Village is to New York,” she said, “Touristy in its own right, but complementary to London’s other big attractions.
“We have lots of hotels and restaurants, there’s a Royal Park, the iconic Whiteleys shopping centre, bowling alleys, ice rinks and round the corner in Westbourne Grove, we have an abundance of independent boutiques and art galleries. Everything is already here, we just need to make people appreciate it.”
Mrs Bench was parachuted in to head Bayswater Village in February after spending the past five years as the development director of neighbouring BID, HammersmithLondon.
The BID model is quite new in this country but is proving effective in rejuvenating flagging high streets as traders pay an annual levy for town centre managers.
With a budget of about £420,000 a year, the organisation uses the money to promote the area, increase safety and improve the street scene.
Mrs Bench began working with traders as soon as she arrived to take advantage of the forthcoming Olympic games. But despite the capital’s euphoric mood, many traders in London failed to benefit from the goldrush.
The 53-year-old, said: “West London didn’t have a great Olympics, and traders have been quite understanding. But now we want to build on that goodwill. Bayswater is so vibrant. We want to build on that civic pride and celebrate the diversity of the area. We’ve the biggest choice of restaurants per square foot than anywhere in London.
“There is more than one market to aim at, there are tourists, residents and other Londoners. We don’t need to change, we just need to position ourselves so that people will think of Bayswater Village.”
With two Tube stops – Bayswater and Queensway – about 40 restaurants, 13 hotels and a world famous shopping centre in Whiteleys, Mrs Bench does not think it will be long until the area becomes a prominent part of the capital.
Over the coming months there will be a wave of advertising promoting Bayswater Village, improvements will be made to the street decorations and furniture, and discussions are going on about an art festival early next year.
Mrs Bench was approached to spearhead the organisation’s new direction after five successful years with HammersmithLondon. During that time the BID has been re-elected by traders and has pumped well over £4million into projects and services for the town centre, including a yearly summer festival, litter campaigns, additional CCTV and extra police patrols.
However, the only thing linking the two BIDS, is Mrs Bench herself.
She said: “We’re in our second term at HammersmithLondon but it has a very different profile. Bayswater is much more of a high street, there are lots of retail and leisure and many more residents. HammersmithLondon is very heavy in the office sector and some retail. There are similarities but they are two different autonomies.
“HammersmithLondon has now a very experienced team running things, so I divide my time between the two, but I'm enjoying working with businesses in Bayswater and looking forward to implementing long-term plans to promote the area.”