Here is the fifth blog in a series that discuss different aspects of (Y)our City Centre Regeneration.
The end of the 20th century saw declining trends in high street retail habits and city centre population density. More recently, the number of people looking to live within city centres is on the rise; however, to encourage continued growth there is a need for spaces to be reshaped and reinvigorated to breathe new life into them and make them fit for the future. The District Regeneration Frameworks (DRF) are an opportunity to re-imagine what our city looks like, what it offers people, shape how we can move around it, and ensure it responds to the climate emergency and the challenges COVID-19 has presented.
Glasgow is already a thriving, vital city, that wants to drive more improvements, promoting itself as an attractive, sustainable, economically viable, vibrant and liveable city. A city where more people have more opportunities and a greater desire to gather, socialise, live, shop and work. These opportunities encourage investment, economic growth and increased residential expansion. This can be facilitated by adopting a ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ approach, whereby access to day-to-day public amenities and community facilities can be accessed by a 20-minute, or half-mile, walk; with high quality, reliable and affordable mass transit systems providing links to other neighbourhoods. This is a significant departure from the historic ‘zonal’ development pattern of suburban residential schemes and out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks.
As people who engineer and design our built environment, we need to be highly socially aware and emotionally intelligent. We need to recognise that decisions occur in complex political environments where multiple stakeholders, holding different values and conflicting goals, interact and make decisions together. We know that talent diversity and process disruption are the best way to enable progress and success needs to be measured not by traditional methods but by how a citizen experiences a place and our impact on the natural environment.
Nature-based choices and ‘green engineering’ are at the heart of this approach, which in turn helps our city be more climate-resilient. These principles are evident in the work we have done so far on the ‘Avenues’ project. Our collaborative design approach with Glasgow City Council and Urban Movement outlines a fundamental reallocation of space; putting people and experience first, rather than motor vehicles, with existing carriageway space being liberated and re-purposed for the installation of ‘green and blue’ infrastructure and improved pedestrian and cycling provision.
For two years, we have carried out an extensive consultation and engagement programme, with a broad range of stakeholders, to help us gain an understanding of what people want, need and what is possible. This programme has helped us to generate our designs for the city which, in many locations, result in up to 20% of the available public realm being retrofitted to meaningfully incorporate ‘green and blue’ infrastructure in the form of rain gardens and street trees. There are widened uncluttered pavements which are even and level underfoot. There is dedicated cycle infrastructure. There is space to sit, socialise and dwell in an attractive environment that provides direct access to nature. These interventions will go some way to tackle the challenges of climate resilience and the inherent issues of surface water management, air quality, and urban heat island effects, whilst providing biodiversity and improving the general attractiveness of the space.
The Avenues project is considered to be an enabler to achieving many of the aims of the City Centre Strategy and the District Regeneration Frameworks through the re-imagining of a number of key city centre thoroughfares. The Avenues themselves can be regarded as a series of armatures on which to build a wider network of climate resilience, biodiversity, and active travel opportunities throughout each District and beyond; forming the basis of aspirational, attractive, contemporary city living.
We recognise the privileged position and responsibility we have in being able to directly influence the lives of the people who use these places each day and night; whether as space they live in, space they work in, space they socialise in, or just a space they travel through. Through wide-reaching consultation with communities, disability access groups, shoppers, landlords, retailers, educational facilities, public transport operators, and utility companies, we have a deeper understanding of what a design should deliver and how this must vary depending on the location, characteristics and history of each space.
Stephen O’Malley and Scott Manning are from Civic Engineers; a civil, structural and transport engineering practice at the forefront of innovative design, creating inspirational structures and places that have a positive impact on the environment and enable people to lead healthier and happier lives.
Civic Engineers are part of the team working to prepare District Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. They are also lead consultant on Block A of the Enabling Infrastructure Integrated Public Realm project (EIIPR), colloquially known as the ‘Avenues’.
Here is the fourth blog in a series that discusses different aspects of the ongoing (Y)our City Centre District Regeneration Frameworks. Here Dr Mark Robertson, Managing Partner of Ryden considers the property market context for Glasgow post-Covid and post-Brexit.
Ryden is delighted to once again contribute to Austin Smith:Lord’s regeneration frameworks for Glasgow city centre. Our role is to bring property market optimism, with a healthy dose of realism, to plans to continue the successful regeneration of the city centre.
I would argue that Glasgow already has the strongest regeneration story among the UK’s regional cities, including ‘Manctopia’. From the peripheral housing estates inwards to the Transformational Regeneration Areas, Clyde Gateway, the waterfront to date and Clyde Mission and City Deal now and for the future – these are not simply physical projects but have embedded strong socio-economics and increasing environmental benefits. In the core city centre, there is no question that Glasgow’s Central Business – and shopping, eating and drinking – District is post-regeneration and a great success, although it will benefit from more residents and some better spaces between buildings.
The four areas we are now analysing are part of this defined city centre. They have established populations, great civic value and anchor institutions such as the universities and hospital – in total a remarkable 15,000 properties. But, at the outer edges, they can each appear unloved and rather remote from the city centre proper. It is a short walk but can feel like a long way from Buchanan Street to parts of Cowcaddens, Townhead and the inner east end. The wider context matters too, as the fast-improving north (Port Dundas and Sighthill), inner East End and south push inwards – creating the prospects for these Districts to be urban bridges between the core city centre and the wider conurbation.
The property markets we work with have undergone massive change: we are now working post-privatisation (a long time ago, in the 1980s and 90s), post-Global Financial Crisis (2008) and very soon post-Brexit and hopefully post-COVID. This context matters: property markets are ever-more risk-averse and prefer to invest in the best locations for the most valuable occupiers – branded hotels, leisure, shops and office occupiers such as government, banks and utilities. These major occupiers are attracted to Glasgow and bring great investment benefits. But, in the coming market, there are likely to be fewer of them. The city centre must continue to target and win this prime investment where possible, but now also turn to its puzzling long term vacancies, under-used buildings and gap sites and the city centre edges – if it is to continue to grow and improve its offer to the broadest possible mix of residents, businesses and visitors.
As demonstrated by the regeneration programmes noted above, Glasgow has never lost its capacity to tackle market challenges. It still can and does face into areas requiring planning, early funding and market support. The city will need all of these skills and its celebrated optimism to deliver the potential of the four Districts, but now is the time and these are the places to build the platform for that change.
Mark is Managing Partner of Ryden. He has led many notable property consultancy projects in Glasgow, including the city centre strategy, Transformational Regeneration Areas, Clyde Gateway regeneration, International Financial Services District, Clyde Waterfront and, with Austin Smith:Lord, the city centre Districts Regeneration Frameworks. Mark has edited Ryden’s Scottish Property Review for 27 years, is on the policy boards of SPF and SCDI, is a fellow of the RICS and teaches MSc property investment appraisal.
On 3 September 2020, Glasgow City Council’s City Administration Committee approved the Glasgow Begging Strategy (GBS) for 6-week public consultation which will begin on 11 September 2020.
This document has been developed by a Short Life Working Group (SLWG) which was established as a multi-partner forum. Chaired by Councillor Allan Casey, the SLWG comprised a wide range of public sector agencies, third sector groups, and private businesses and business networks, including Glasgow City Mission, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP), the Marie Trust, Turning Point Scotland, Homeless Network Scotland, Simon Community Scotland, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and the City Centre Retailers Association. Importantly, people with lived (or personal) experience of street begging were involved in the development of the Glasgow Begging Strategy and will continue to be involved in its implementation going forward.
The Glasgow Begging Strategy involves a number of measures intended to help people currently engaged in street begging to move onto more positive destinations.
A key feature of the strategy is Street Change Glasgow (SCG), a new alternative giving scheme which was launched earlier this year with a public donation point installed in Central Station. Another three city centre venues (The Cathouse, The Garage and 29) already have similar donation points and more are planned for other locations.
SCG offers the public an alternative option to dropping change into a cup – a kindness which only helps the recipient short term and seeks to help vulnerable people improve their lives long term. The fund will be led and managed by Simon Community Scotland and payments will be made to individuals via Glasgow’s Street Team which works with people on the streets and is funded by GCHSCP.
This alternative giving scheme is one of four Key Projects outlined in GBS which will assist existing services and initiatives which help vulnerable people in Glasgow.
During the public consultation exercise, you can view and participate here
The draft Glasgow Begging Strategy can be downloaded from here
Further information about Street Change Glasgow can be found here
Like many people impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 emergency, DRS City Centre Regeneration have endeavoured to maintain as much functionality as possible while being restricted to working from home, and this has led to the development of some innovative outputs to ensure our projects remain effective. For instance, we have recently created a new Audio Map to support the existing City Centre Mural Trail web-app.
Since 2015, Glasgow City Council has provided free, guided walking tours as part of the annual Glasgow Door Open Day (GDOD) events. This year, due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, GDOD event organisers had asked participating organisations to create alternative activities which would be compliant with the physical distancing guidance. Responding to this request, we investigated the possibility of creating a “virtual”, guided walking tour which users could access from the comfort of their own homes. It was this idea which led to the formation of the Audio Map This StoryMap based application uses spoken-word audio clips to convey information about each mural and some interesting features about the surrounding areas. As a result, the City Centre Mural Trail will still be included in this year’s Glasgow Doors Open Day calendar of events, albeit in this revised format. Furthermore, this new functionality can now be used by people with visual or mobility impairments who would typically be reluctant or physically incapable of visiting the murals, as it will remain a feature of the CCMT web-app going forward.
In other mural related news, the City Centre Mural Trail has recently been awarded Traveller’s Choice status by Trip Advisor due to the high levels of positive feedback which the installations continue to receive from local residents and visitors to the city. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped support this initiative over the years.
Finally, the refresh of the artwork which previously adorned The Clutha bar is now nearing completion thanks to the amazing efforts of Art Pistol and around a dozen artists who’ve lent their immense talents to the project, adding some vital colour and vibrancy to the area. We hope that the new refresh proves to be as popular as its predecessor.
This is the third blog in response to the work being done by the team working to prepare District Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. Professor David McGillivray is Chair in Digital and Event Cultures at University of the West of Scotland, Project Lead for FESTSPACE and Deputy Director of the Centre for Culture, Sport and Events. He can be contacted via email or you can find him on Twitter @dgmcgillivray.
Our FESTSPACE (Festivals, events and inclusive public space) research project was conceived in a pre-COVID-19 world, where those interested in festivals, events and urban policy were debating how to best design and manage public spaces to bring people together, to encourage co-presence (and co-proximity), and generate convivial atmospheres involving as wide a representation of the population as possible. At that time, we were focused on how to ensure festive public spaces were inclusive and equitable, accessible, and reflective of the needs of the place (s) that host them. We heard about how festivals and events could generate civic pride, reflect the unique identity of diverse communities and the unique attributes of the cities that organise them. However, people also talked to us about economic imperatives exerting undue influence on how urban public spaces were being used, and managed, expressing concern about too many commercially-oriented festivals and events taking place in their parks or public squares, removing much valued civic public space for extended periods of time.
Pre-COVID, large staged events played a significant role in the promotion of cities as destinations. During the lockdown, and as measures are slowly being relaxed, we have seen evidence of interesting creative responses that reflect people’s desire for sociability, often with a renewed emphasis on locality, neighbourhood and the quality of the local environment. Everyday cultural activities have emerged, creating solidarity and strengthening community ties. For example, in Barcelona, spontaneous forms of festivity, initiated by individuals and communities, have been established with balconies and terraces taking on the role of public spaces. In Dublin, London and Glasgow we have seen streets operate as the site of different kinds of organised (socially distanced) small community gatherings, including playing bingo outdoors, exercise, dancing, musical performances, and street parties (during VE Day celebrations, for example).
Many of these gatherings have been localised in nature, building on the resilience of residential clusters and encouraging communities to operate collectively. Some public spaces that prioritised motorised vehicles or commercial use have, during COVID-19, been reconfigured as places to enjoy communal social experiences that many would like to sustain as they emerge from the health emergency.
Looking to the Future
The COVID-19 pandemic has significant implications for the preservation of face-to-face collective experiences, the division between the private and public spheres, and the future of the festivals and events sector (s). Post-COVID, new formats and new public spaces will emerge which can help rebuild social life, albeit under new conditions. Our streets, balconies, parks and the spaces in-between will need to be reimagined as environments for communal social experiences, albeit at a distance for now. What does this mean for how our cities might, or should, look in the future? We need to think more creatively about how to work with neighbourhoods to experiment with unused or underused space, at least temporarily. We should consider how to initiate and support meanwhile use, including appropriate, locally meaningful cultural festivals and events, to animate and enhance city centre areas, though being wary of gentrifying threats. We also need to explore models of ownership, management and resourcing to give communities the opportunity to influence what is on offer in their neighbourhoods without imposing unrealistic demands in respect of legal issues and liabilities.
Finally, with specific reference to Glasgow City Centre District Regeneration Frameworks, we also need to ask ourselves:
- What role festivals and events could play in the reconfiguration of city centre districts, balancing the need for showcase events that attract visitors with locally-rooted and meaningful cultural celebrations that represent neighbourhood and community interests?
- How can we ensure that the imperative to conceive of city centre districts as only economic drivers does not accelerate processes of privatisation/commercialisation and the loss of civic public space?
- How might new unused or underused spaces in the target districts be designed in such a way as to accommodate local festivals and events, recognising the diverse needs of the local communities involved?
- How do the DRFs address the issues related to ownership of local public spaces and help develop ownership/management models that enable local groups or organisations to be able to programme activities in these spaces effectively?
- How can the development and animation of existing or new public spaces in the city centre balance the needs of business/economy alongside people’s quality of life?
FESTSPACE is a large research project funded by Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) (http://festspace.net). Led by University of the West of Scotland, with academic partners in London, Dublin, Barcelona and Gothenburg, the project focuses on the different types of festive public space that exist across Europe and what lessons can be learned about inclusivity from these models, how festivals and events affect who uses urban public spaces and how they interact within them, and what are the enduring effects on inclusivity of festivals and events staged in public spaces. One of the FESTSPACE Associate Partners, Austin-Smith: Lord, is the lead consultant on the (Y)our City Centre District Regeneration Frameworks for Glasgow City Council.