Under threat independent traders said a crunch meeting with council leader Sir Albert Bore had gone very positively.
Last week the Birmingham Post revealed that businesses around the St Philips Cathedral area were demanding help amid plunging custom.
Traders have teamed up, threatening a Saturday strike if the council doesn’t help them rejuvenate the area.
Representatives of the new tenants’ association have now had a private meeting with council leader Sir Albert Bore, urging him to send a researcher north to find out how Manchester turned its downtrodden Northern Quarter into one of the city’s prime destinations for shoppers, drinkers and diners.
The 50 businesses around Temple Row, Corporation Street and Great Western Arcade want to provide an alternative area to complement the Bullring, saying too much focus is put on Birmingham’s corporate shopping zone while its independent traders are “on their last legs”.
Claiming that footfall has dropped by half since city centre buses were re-routed - and fearing that dozens of businesses could shut within 12 months - the tenants’ association is pleading for a reduction in business rates and a long-term plan to rejuvenate the Cathedral area.
Jason Hayward, who owns Saks hair salon, said: “Sir Albert was very positive about the issue and backed our case 100 per cent.
“He told us he went for a walk round the city and it made him realise that we have a point and something needs to be done.
“He told us he can’t give us 50 per cent reductions overnight because the council can’t afford that but he told us he’ll speak with the relevant people in regards to sorting out immediate relief and talking to Centro regarding putting some compensation packages together.”
The Valuation Office Agency – a branch of HMRC – sets the value of business rates every five years but individual businesses can appeal against their valuation.
The city council collects the business rate payments and sets the monetary value of those rates. It is within the council’s remit to change the amount they charge to reflect a change in the circumstances of a business.
Council leader Sir Albert Bore was unavailable to comment.
Mr Hayward, who is originally from Leeds and lived in Manchester for eight years, wants Birmingham to learn from other cities which have reinvigorated pockets of their city centres with independent traders.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter was known locally as a red-light district and no-go zone before regeneration spurred new independent bars and shops and revitalised pubs surrounding indie shopping emporium Affleck’s Palace.
Further pockets of regeneration in the city have created a patchwork of “destinations” including Canal Street’s Gay Village, Deansgate Locks near the old Hacienda, and the new financial district known as Spinningfields.
The tenants’ association want a team at Birmingham City Council to research Manchester’s regeneration and bring a similar strategy back to support Birmingham’s Cathedral area and other hubs such as the Jewellery Quarter.
Mr Hayward said: “A lot of cities are known by their quarters - The Lanes in Brighton, Clifton in Bristol, etc. – but I don’t know why that hasn’t happened in Birmingham.
“They are just so focused on the corporates.”
According to Mr Hayward a new city centre map soon to be released by Retail Birmingham labels the troubled area as “Cathedral Walks” but he says the reality doesn’t live up to the label.
“People arriving from London and Europe will come looking for Cathedral Walks, expecting something like Manchester’s Northern Quarter, but in fact they’ll find a bookies, a couple of charity shops and the odd one or two of us that will be left.
“It will be embarrassing.”
The tenants’ association is meeting tonight to discuss their progress and options.
They expect to hear back from Sir Albert by the end of this week.
Mr Hayward added: “Obviously if we don’t start to see these things happening, what we’ve said we’ll do we’ll do.
“People are on their last legs.”
To support the tenants’ association visit their Facebook page by searching for “BirminghamSaveOurCity”.