Council launch competition to redesign iconic shopfronts under Glasgow Central bridge

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The new recovery plan includes extra more rigorous street cleans, and plans to refurbish and renew shopfronts across the city centre.

Street cleans, extra enforcement, and plans to redesign shopfronts at Heilanman’s Umbrella are among Glasgow’s efforts to revitalise the city centre after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city was granted almost £2m from the Scottish Government towards recovery from the pandemic and has used funds on four new community enforcement officers, more graffiti removal teams, and a ‘deep clean’ for Glasgow.

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Converting old retail properties is also on the council’s agenda but ‘significant’ policy shifts and ‘large-scale’ funding is reportedly required.

A design competition, with support from the Royal Institute of Architects, will be held to reinvigorate shop fronts at the Heilanman’s Umbrella. It is reportedly part of a wider plan to find new commercial uses and reduce anti-social behaviour.

Property re-purposing is a key part of a new city centre strategy to be launched in January 2024 as there is a “substantial legacy” of old buildings which are no longer fit for commercial uses, officials have reported.

The update on recovery plans comes just days after Glasgow’s published household survey found 43% of people think the city has ‘got worse over the last few years’ while just 13% believe it has ‘got better’.

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Figures, for July this year, showed city centre footfall was down 19% on pre-pandemic levels, translating to around 810,000 fewer visitors per month. Weekend (98%) and evening (93%) footfall is close to pre-covid levels but weekday footfall is at 72%.

Council officials have compiled an update on progress with the city’s recovery plan, which was agreed in December last year and runs until the end of 2023.

Glasgow’s city centre taskforce, made up of public and private sector representatives, got £1.95m from the Scottish Government in April.

Funding has been spent on improving the look of empty units on Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street, including the use of vinyls and hoardings, while ‘meanwhile use’ projects are being developed to give ‘more productive short-term outcomes while longer-term occupiers are sought’.

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Four community enforcement officers are now in post, supporting the police and businesses in the city centre, and a deep clean team focused on activities such as de-weeding, sticker removal, minor painting works, cleaning street furniture, and power washing has been formed.

Officials have also said improvements have been made around Anderston Station and the bus station while work on the “look and feel” of the city centre has been carried out, including cleaning up litter and chewing gum and installing planters.

A six-month discount period on roads permits has been available for city centre outdoor areas, open to around 160 businesses.

The council will draw up a retail capacity study and a ‘masterplan’ for the ‘Golden Z’ – Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street. It will include information on consumer research, expenditure and future demand for floor space.

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It is hoped the vision will create a ‘statement of intent’ for the future development and direction of the streets, including identifying priority areas for investment.

The shopfronts underneath the Hielanman’s umbrella (Glasgow Central bridge) will be redesigned as part the new recovery planThe shopfronts underneath the Hielanman’s umbrella (Glasgow Central bridge) will be redesigned as part the new recovery plan
The shopfronts underneath the Hielanman’s umbrella (Glasgow Central bridge) will be redesigned as part the new recovery plan | Google Maps

Cllr Angus Millar, the council’s convener for city centre recovery, said: “The profound impact of the pandemic on our city centres required an equally major response, and we and our partners are working to plan for and deliver the kind of mixed-use and sustainable city centre we need to support.

“While certain sectors of the city centre economy have recovered well, we still have much work to do to deliver the changes we know we need to see – such as finding new ways to support the re-purposing of property, re-imagining the historic Golden Z, creating greener and more connected city streets through the Avenues and other infrastructure projects, and delivering more homes in the heart of the city.

“Our ultimate aim is to create a city centre that is an attractive and sustainable place in which to live, work, study, visit and invest, and I look forward to working with partners to support that vision.”

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“Conversion opportunities must be expedited,” the report added. “However this is likely to require significant shifts in policy, as well as large-scale funding to protect these assets and transform them into productive, re-purposed accommodation.”

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