A guest post by Nick Wright
One thing I love about Glasgow city centre is the buzz: people everywhere, events in the street, new places to visit.
In my professional life as an urban planner, I’m really interested in how to help make that buzz even better. Planning is often thought of as a legalistic activity, regulating new development. But it can also be proactive and creative activity. When it comes to making the city centre buzz, a good starting point for me is to work with the folk who make that buzz, to find out what they need to happen to build even more buzz.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with the Council’s City Centre Regeneration Team – the dedicated folk who are behind this website – to put that concept into practice. The City Centre Lanes Strategy prepared for the team by WMUD is a good example. Its purpose was to understand and promote the practical potential of the city centre’s lanes to bring more buzz to the city centre. At the heart of the work were dozens of conversations with local businesses, residents, artists and entrepreneurs who wanted to bring life to the lanes so we could understand what they saw as the potential, what was stopping them, and how to remove those barriers.
Those conversations led to a strategy and action plan which the Council has moved quickly to act upon. Within months of the Lanes Strategy being finalised, the Council had implemented the single most important action from all those we spoke to: removed unsightly and polluting commercial waste bins from the lanes. At a stroke, rewriting commercial waste and recycling rules removed the single most significant barrier to realising the potential of the city centre’s lanes. This has quickly been followed by a £100,000 City Centre Lanes Activation Fund, the sole purpose of which is to support businesses, residents and artists in developing lanes as attractive and exciting places.
For me, the Lanes Strategy and its implementation is a wonderful example of the Council working collaboratively with local people and organisations to help them make their environment better. From the outset, the ethos of the Lanes Strategy was to support collaborative action, based on local ideas – inspired by good examples like Melbourne and Montreal, but not trying to impose their solutions in Glasgow. I think that’s wonderful.
A recent blog post on this website highlighted another excellent example of collaborative working in the city centre: the High Street Area Strategy. Behind that rather mundane title lies an exciting vision and action plan for the future, which helps the local community itself bring more life to the area. Like the Lanes Strategy, the Council’s City Centre Strategy Team were behind this work too.
These two examples are part of a shift, not just in what the city centre offers (as illustrated by Iain MacPherson’s recent blog post on this website on co-working), but also how the Council manages and supports those changes. For me, working collaboratively and proactively with local businesses, residents, artists and entrepreneurs has to be the way forward. It’s great to see some examples of this taking root in the city centre.
The draft Broomielaw District Regeneration Framework (DRF) is moving closer to approval for public consultation. Although over 3,500 people and stakeholders have contributed, it is always exciting to see what people think of the ideas, priorities and action plans that have been developed.
The DRF (who doesn’t enjoy a bit of jargon) is full of many exciting ideas, but one thing it does do is recognise the importance of the River Clyde to the city and also the fact that since the decline in traditional heavy industries there are still many opportunities to integrate the river into the city centre.
Many cities with an industrial past have faced the same challenges regarding re-connecting their rivers and industrial sites – like docks and warehouse areas – to the city and more importantly to people. Potentially there are now more drivers to address this than ever before – the placemaking concept is gaining strength and is being recognised by developers as something that adds value. This makes it easier to incorporate things such as mixed use (residential, office, hotel and retail) in one development area, with open space and active street fronts to ensure that spaces operate at a human scale. The terminology can be quite cold and sound process-driven, but mostly it is about building places that people want to live in, work in and visit.
Cities themselves are becoming ever more critical. Globally, and for the first time ever, more people now live in urban areas than in the countryside. This changes what people want concerning amenity and facilities which is also helping to drive placemaking principles. Also, the changes in working and shopping patterns that the use of digital platforms has enabled creates even more momentum behind placemaking – developments are not solely about what type of accommodation we live in but are about what we can do locally. The use of digital platforms may extend our reach in many ways, but it runs parallel to a desire to be local, for the feel of a place and the experiences we can have, including café life, nightlife, co-working spaces, cultural life, music, quality open space and human interaction.
Assets such as rivers provide great opportunities and a natural resource to respond to these trends. Many cities are acting on this. For example, Hamburg and Newcastle. There are many others, but the opportunities for Scotland’s largest and most metropolitan city to respond in a way which respects its heritage and supports its future are really exciting.
Your views will help shape this so please get engaged when the consultation starts.
Following a public consultation earlier this year, with the council hearing about the priorities of local residents, businesses and other organisations, plans will now be put into action to better promote the area’s rich history and built heritage, support small businesses and the local economy, and enhance public realm.
The area is home to around 6,000 people and features a host of attractions such as the Barras, Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow Green, the Necropolis, Provand’s Lordship, the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, the Tollbooth Steeple, and key locations on the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail, as well as independent shops and traders, artists’ studios, bars, restaurants, the Glasgow City Innovation District and the Tontine centre of innovation.
The strategy will be overseen by a cross-party body, the High Street Reference Group, comprising all the councillors representing the wards covering the area.
The strategy, which will run from 2019 – 2023, contains a range of ambitious plans to support the area’s revitalisation. Key actions in the HSAS include:
- Working with partner agencies to promote the preservation of built heritage
- Establishing a Heritage Trail to link the area’s visitor attractions and highlight historical points of interest
- Introducing a new “Meanwhile Space” initiative to bring vacant shop units into positive use
- Expanding the “Independent Retail Fund” to support shopfront improvements
- Exploring more opportunities for quality public space and active travel
In response to concerns raised by local traders during the consultation process, City Property will also implement a two-year moratorium on rent increases for its tenants in the upper High Street and Saltmarket areas, as well as improving its tenant engagement with local businesses.
Councillor Angus Millar, Depute City Convener for Economic Growth at Glasgow City Council and Chair of the High Street Reference Group, said:
“The High Street Area Strategy will guide the long-overdue regeneration of Glasgow’s historic heart, making a clear commitment to the area’s future with a range of initiatives to take the High Street forward. The strong level of engagement from the public in our consultation earlier this year underlines the importance of the High Street to so many Glaswegians. By doing more to promote the area’s rich heritage and support the local economy, we can help make the High Street area the vibrant, celebrated district of the city it deserves to be. I look forward to working over the coming years with local residents, businesses and council partners in delivering the city’s ambitious plans for this important quarter of Glasgow.”
The High Street Area Strategy can be downloaded here [8.6 MB PDF] or you can read it on ISSUU below:
A guest post by Iain MacPherson
The way we work is changing – and changing rapidly. Some recent research was reported that apparently only 6% of people now work a regular 9-5. Now, these could be skewed statistics where it turns out the clear majority are working regular hours, but it happens to be 9-5:30 or 8:30-5…but it’s likely that even with skewed statistics this reflects the vast sea change in the way we work. Patterns established for Victorian industry aren’t relevant anymore in a digital world. Being in a specific place at a particular time to do many tasks is an anachronism that plenty of us could do without, and we want to explore and enjoy this new way of working.
The freedom and flexibility from what’s been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution is like any freedom, push it to its limits, and it’s not as much fun as it might at first seem. For example, loneliness, lack of collaboration, not being able to access all the good stuff you would if commuting to a “Central Business District” – this has led to people flocking to coffee shops, finding a place and people to work with. Shuffle this idea along a bit and throw in a good dose of the sharing economy coming of age and the coworking space is born.
As a history of coworking, this is a terrible injustice to what is becoming a massive movement. Let’s move on to why coworking is important for our city.
Geographers have established theories of how a city or a region develops in line with its economy, cluster theory. Companies that are innovating or driving forwards tend to group together – think Silicon Valley, City of London, creative clusters in areas like Shore Ditch, closer to home we’ve the Barras, Pacific Quay and so on. Now some of this is artificial, but a lot of it is because companies recognise the value of proximity and the natural sparks of information transfer, talent and collaboration that this brings.
At a micro-level coworking allows the same thing to happen. It needn’t be industry or sector specific, but people find that proximity to other people creates that place of exchange. Even if sometimes that exchange is just presence! In a changing economy and workplace, we need places that allow those relationships and collaborations to happen. Humans have never flourished in isolation, we’re communal creatures, and more importantly than clustering for the sake of economy we’re clustering for the sake of meeting that human need for community.
As people work more flexibly, in time and place, coworking spaces, collaborative coffee shops, third spaces, all become critical to the wellbeing of our city. If all these people disappeared to the fringes, they take away the vibrancy that they bring to the city centre – not to mention the money they might spend.
Having an infrastructure in the city of third places – coworking, collab spaces, whatever your thing is – is critical to ongoing vibrancy throughout this sea change in how we work. Not just for the good of the city centre, but for the good of the work we do, and for the good of ourselves.
Iain is an urban planner and the founder/operator of the Reorient coworking space in Cowcaddens which opened in May 2018.
We are currently consulting with all Council stakeholders on the content of the St Enoch District Regeneration Framework (DRF) which has been developed by the Austin-Smith:Lord team. This consultation will be complete by the 19 October 2018. As soon as we have incorporated all relevant comments we will start the process of getting approval to formally consult with the public. The feedback from this consultation will be added to the 3,500 engagements which the design team have already gathered from various stakeholders during the creation of the DRF. This final consultation will give people the opportunity to say whether they agree with the projects and their prioritisation.
Each of the DRF’s has a range of small, medium and large projects and in all instances, the approach on delivery will be based around the (Y)our approach of partnership with other public sector bodies and also with the private sector.