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.
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.
Work continues with the development of District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs) for Cowcaddens, Townhead, Learning Quarter and Merchant City.
The process seeks to engage with as many stakeholders as possible. Austin-Smith:Lord is leading the process. In doing this, the project team will get the clearest picture of the opportunities and priorities for the areas. They will also see how these relate to the short, medium and long-term context.
If you want to be part of this exciting process, go to https://yourcitycentre2020.commonplace.is/ and let us know what you think.
We are working with Glasgow Chamber of Commerce to help with these conversations and to hear what people think. They recently hosted a meeting to discuss Sustaining Glasgow City Centres Green Recovery. The session was recorded and is available here.
The conversation was interesting. It featured lots of themes such as usable green spaces, active travel and the commitment by Glasgow City Council to be carbon neutral by 2030. Another topic was how the city centre could stay as a thriving place that is attractive to an increasing number of residents, businesses and visitors.
Take the time to get in touch – it is (Y)our City Centre.
Cowcaddens, Townhead, Learning Quarter and Merchant City
It is time to let us know what you think the key issues and opportunities are for some or all the districts we are creating District Regeneration Frameworks for. You can contact yourcitycentre2020.commonplace.is/ and leave as many comments as you wish or you can call us 0800 1583973. This number is live on the following dates/times: Thursday 2 July, noon – 2pm, 5 – 7pm, Saturday 4 July, 10am – noon. We will add other dates as the project develops. This will give those without online access the chance to share their ideas.
We are really keen to hear your views on how it can be made easier to get around the city centre; how streets and open spaces can be improved; and hear thoughts on housing and places to work and learn, and on the mix of activities required to create a thriving, active city centre in the future. The city centre plays a key role for the whole of Glasgow as well as the surrounding region beyond it, so thoughts on connectivity are also welcome.
The consultation and engagement process for the four districts will have two main phases. This one is to find out what people think the key priorities, issues and opportunities are for each or all the districts. The second will happen later this year when the team will work with stakeholders to develop ideas that will feed into the action plans.
A DRF is a 10-year regeneration planning framework and action plan, and each DRF will guide the city centre’s physical, social and economic regeneration. The DRFs support both Glasgow’s City Development Plan and the City Centre Strategy.
The council recently appointed a team to help prepare ambitious regeneration action plans for these four districts you can find about more about them and the strategy as a whole at [email protected] and [email protected]
Please make the time to make on comments on-line or phone us on the dates and times listed above.
(Y)our Sustainable City Centre
Here is the second blog from the team working to prepare Districts Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. Judith Sykes and Carrie Behar are from Useful Projects which is a sustainable innovation consultancy for the built environment. They specialise in climate and biodiversity emergency planning, circular economy, social value and wellbeing, and design thinking and creativity.
A global and local imperative
The climate emergency and catastrophic biodiversity loss are two of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. In the context of a rapidly urbanising global population, every city has a part to play in addressing these challenges, by supporting the transition to a more equitable society and supporting citizens in leading sustainable lifestyles.
Glasgow has a strong impetus for implementing sustainable development. It can capitalise on the co-benefits of climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation as it manages relevant budgets around health, transport and housing, and has a deep understanding of how the different policy priorities impact on each other. Sustainability has been at the core of Glasgow’s planning and development policy for many years. It underpins the latest City Development Plan (2016), and is at the heart of the draft City Centre Living Strategy Vision 2035 and the Draft City Centre Strategic Development Framework (forthcoming). Furthermore, initiatives such as Sustainable Glasgow and the Connectivity Commission are examples of how Glasgow has successfully sought to take a fresh and holistic approach to environmental, social and economic development by advocating a partnership approach to travel and public transport provision.
In 2019, the Council joined other local authorities in declaring a climate emergency and set an ambitious target to become climate neutral by 2030. The city was due to host this year’s Conference of Parties annual climate change summit (COP26), currently postponed to 2021.
An unprecedented opportunity
The unprecedented response to COVID-19 shows just how quickly we can change. During the national lockdown, we have seen a glimpse of what a future city could look like: fewer cars, cleaner, quieter and more pleasant streets, better air quality and an increase in walking and cycling. In Scotland, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already stated that the post-lockdown transition should reset agendas around sustainability.
Other international cities and organisations are joining the #buildbackbetter movement. For example, Amsterdam is applying doughnut economics as part of their planning for post-COVID recovery. Amsterdam’s vision is to be “a thriving, regenerative and inclusive city for all citizens while respecting the planetary boundaries”. Cities such as Bogota have provided emergency bikeways, and Milan is hoping to permanently reallocate street space from cars to cycling and walking, as part of a radical transformation prompted by the coronavirus crisis.
Building on success in four unique neighbourhoods
The District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs) for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the ‘Learning Quarter’ and the Merchant City neighbourhoods will need to respond to the specific challenges and opportunities inherent in the fabric and social composition of each district. Working closely with local communities, to shape the transformation of their neighbourhoods into flourishing and sustainable pieces of city will bring this about.
While the distinct characteristics of each neighbourhood will be retained and celebrated, the city centre will achieve greater social and physical coherence through the application of shared sustainability themes and objectives. These include carbon neutrality, zero waste in construction and operation, biodiversity net gain, high physical and digital connectivity, empowered communities, and active, healthy lifestyles. The DRFs provide an opportunity to improve the neighbourhoods to provide a setting for greater inclusivity and justice- through the shaping of the physical environment in a way that enables and encourages people to live healthy lifestyles and attain the best possible quality of life.
To ensure the success of the DRFs, we intend to work with communities and stakeholders to develop distinctive, local solutions that are relevant to Glasgow and can be delivered in partnership to address these global challenges. Through extensive consultation and community engagement, we are gathering diverse perspectives and moving towards developing a consensus around a shared vision of success. The outcome of this approach will be a city that puts people at its heart.
COVID-19 has shown us that we can adapt. Now is the time to pause and reflect on some of the great work that Glasgow is already doing in meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. Avenues, Future City Glasgow, Circular Glasgow), before setting out a plan of action and an enabling framework that allows Glasgow to go even further in becoming a truly world-class sustainable city.
Judith Sykes and Carrie Behar
Our role on this project is to develop a sustainability framework for the DRFs, and to act as an experienced and creative ‘critical friend’ to the project team, to ensure the application of international best practice to deliver a thriving city – based on a sustainable, healthy and inclusive environment, a strong community and a resilient economy.