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’.