The further development of Glasgow’s North-East City Centre presents an opportunity to create sustainable, positive change for residents and to reconnect the two halves of the city centre. We created a series of practical ‘handbooks for change’ to work towards an area that is people-focused, productive, healthy and thriving, and offers substantial new space to live – complementing the existing ‘core City Centre’ with a fresh, live, enriching and distinctive place-making.
Glasgow’s City Centre Strategy (2014) identified 9 Districts; each one requiring a Regeneration Framework to establish a future vision and outline what should go where, and why. The 9 Districts cover the full extent of the centre of Scotland’s largest, and only metropolitan, city. Evidently the environmental, social, economic, cultural and civic health and performance of these Districts, now and in the future, is therefore of national as well as local and city regional significance. The District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs) set strategic high-level frameworks for the physical, social and economic development of the city for the next ten years. Providing a series of short, medium and long-term actions that combine strategic planning and placemaking with shorter-term operational and environmental improvements.
Glasgow City Council appointed multi-disciplinary teams to develop DRFs for the City Centre’s 9 Districts in 3 phases, with a pilot first DRF for Sauchiehall and Garnethill undertaken by a team led by Gehl. The second phase of DRFs included the Broomielaw, St. Enoch, Central and Blythswood neighbourhoods by MVRDV in collaboration with Glasgow-based Austin-Smith: Lord as Lead Consultant with local design. Jeroen Zuidgeest was responsible for developing the strategy and design on MVRDV’s behalf.
In 2019, Studio for New Realities alongside Austin-Smith:Lord was appointed by Glasgow City Council as the lead team to prepare the DRFs for the next four city centre districts. Together with a team of specialists we developed the programmatic strategy and urban design framework for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the ‘Learning Quarter’ (including the Universities, College, Infirmary and Cathedral) and the Merchant City (with Calton / Barras).
Find the Regeneration Handbooks here:
Glasgow’s North-East City Centre can be a bit overlooked compared to the South-West, often considered the ‘real’ centre. The North-East is where Glasgow started – but the four districts in this part of the city have changed significantly since then, with much physical heritage erased and quality of place diminished. The area got clearly disconnected from the City Centre and displays stark contrasts in profile, programming and performance. Nevertheless this half of central Glasgow has amazing attributes, assets and great potential to contribute to a distinctive, sustainable, vibrant and healthy city centre. The aim is to bring both halves of the city centre together to achieve synergies by planning holistically.
The DRFs are an important part of the City Centre Strategy which aims to deal with both the legacy of recurring episodes of bold reinvention and urgent renewal in recent history and the pressing issues of today and tomorrow. How Glasgow City Centre performs is of local, regional and national importance. If we are to realise Glasgow City Centre’s potential, a joined up approach is needed to develop a resilient and distinctively local response to the global challenges we are facing; including climate change, post-Covid, and post-Brexit. This also includes addressing broader challenges to quality of life and well-being, such as inherited inequalities in terms of health, housing and economic prospects, work to deliver environmental and social justice and ensure a transition to a regenerative, circular, decarbonised, climate neutral economy. These social, ecological and economic themes need careful coordination between the different scales, in order to translate them into strategic and realistic interventions per district and work towards an integrated development of the North-East, that all Glaswegians can benefit from.
Approaches: how can we establish lasting positive change in the North-East Districts?
The task for the District Regeneration Frameworks is twofold: on the one hand strategic interventions are needed following a clear set of overarching goals, on the other – and most importantly – it is about im-proving quality of life for Glaswegians in their everyday lives. We need to be able to first ‘get the basics right’, to build momentum and credibility in delivering long term, sustainable regeneration across the ar-ea. This is about being able to provide everyone with a roof above their head, about making it easy to get around, about job and education accessibility and about promoting diverse and affordable local shops and (public) services at the neighbourhood level, among many others. These basics will be sub-ject to an ongoing review of ensuring the fundamentals are in place to make sure the right things can happen.
Glasgow will work from three specific perspectives in the future, each elaborated as part of a dedicated ‘value wheel’ for the city.
- Firstly, Glasgow as a dynamic and holistic city: a city open and accessible to everyone, where there is a vibrant public life in well-connected, mixed-use neighbourhoods.
- Secondly, Glasgow as healthy and responsible city: green, sustainable, active, and supporting its urban communities in myriad ways, creating real sense of ownership and responsibility.
- Finally, Glasgow as a thriving and competitive city. Attractive, with access to good education and jobs for all, and a strong local economy building on the city’s assets and expertise.
Conversations with communities and stakeholders of the North-East Districts confirmed that we needed to take a fresh approach to deliver lasting change in Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. This is why the District Regeneration Frameworks set out a vision and long-term strategic framework, plus whilst seeking urgent interventions and delivery of quick-wins – always with a people-centric, project- and action-driven approach. The ultimate aim is to deliver holistic, transformational change to the entire City Centre. To achieve this, a shift in mindset is needed: from system-centric to user-centric urban development. By taking future usage as the basis for spatial design and organisation, we can adopt a holistic approach integrating hardware (physical environment), software (amenities and activities) and orgware (community and governance). Moreover, a multi-layered strategy and a package of interventions at the street, neighbourhood and city scales help shape a hands-on action plan, contributing to a thriving city and smarter, more effective ‘operating system’.
Across the NE Districts there are a series of strategic key moves to respond to the ambition and vision for the City Centre. Combining committed key investments with new focus on overarching projects can transform the future City Centre. While adopting a people-oriented perspective for the overall regeneration, however, system-centric interventions will continue to be useful in creating a strong, city-wide strategic basis for subsequent actions of a more small-scale, local and occasionally tactical nature.
The frameworks were developed over an 18-month period based upon an evidence base, tested throughout the process by community and stakeholder engagement. Almost 11,000 people have participated in DRF engagement so far. Each District Regeneration Framework is intended be a Handbook for Change setting out practical steps to enhance everyday quality of life for those who life, work, study in and visit the City Centre. The Handbooks are focused on encouraging action and enabling partnership working to deliver sustainable change in each place. Action Plans suggest who should work with whom to make change happen and how to align projects with funding and investment.
These District Regeneration Frameworks will help guide future development and investment, and the final Action Plan will ensure that activity is taken forward in a way that complements regeneration happening elsewhere in the city whilst building on each district’s unique character.
Across all of the Districts there are recurring themes and objectives and these are set out in a Combined Handbook. Headline objectives include;
- Living well, locally - supporting and enhancing neighbourhoods, so that existing communities have convenient access to local services and amenities supported by new residents attracted to live in quality, mixed tenure city centre housing
- Working with what we have – appreciating, restoring and reinterpreting our heritage and repurposing under occupied spaces and buildings to support new and mixed uses, nurture local and diverse culture and celebrate these distinctive Districts
- Collaboration, culture and creativity - maximising the potential of existing anchor and cultural institutions including the Universities, College, Arts School and Conservatoire, Infirmary and Cathedral quarter, creative industries and the climate neutral Innovation District to sustain positive change in the local area
- Supporting a diverse economy – creating a mixed use city centre that is sustainable and resilient – nurturing existing businesses and creative innovators – to support a thriving local economy that plays to existing strengths, creates and sustains new skills and jobs
- A dear green place - improving open and green spaces, and transforming vacant and derelict land, to connect communities, provide access to restored nature and promote health and wellbeing
- Dissolving barriers and connecting communities – restoring lost connections between the city centre, the East End and North Glasgow by rejuvenating the High Street and public spaces, dissolving the severance caused by the M8 and extending the Great Streets linking the city centre to surrounding communities
- Sustainable mobility - promoting walking, wheeling, and cycling with seamless, safe and attractive path networks to create (S)low Traffic Neighbourhoods and enhancing the city’s integrated public transport systems to enable convenient access to the city centre for all
- Climate change and infrastructure – embedding sustainable infrastructure, circular economy and planning principles to deliver integrated digital and clean energy networks, nature-based solutions and retrofitting the Districts to contribute to a net zero city centre.
- Distinctive Districts – proposing place-mending through careful interventions that appreciate and celebrate the distinctive identity of each District, their role in the city region and how they can retain what makes them special whilst contributing to a thriving and sustainable city centre.
Each Handbook seeks to identify projects and actions that should be progressed to enhance the everyday quality of life in these Districts. They have been prepared in collaboration with local communities; resident, business, charities, civic and cultural groups, landowners and developers, local and national agencies.
Councillor Angus Millar, Convener for City Centre Recovery at Glasgow City Council, said: “The eastern and northern areas of our city centre are home to some of our more established residential communities, learning institutions and businesses, but they also have so much potential for positive regeneration.
These District Regeneration Frameworks will guide help guide future development and investment, and the final Action Plan will ensure that activity is taken forward in a way that complements regeneration happening elsewhere in the city whilst building on each district’s unique character.
As such, it is important that local people, organisations and stakeholders take part in the new public consultation and help determine what the priorities should be for the future of these key city centre districts.”
Naar aanleiding van de klimaatconferentie COP26 die in november 2021 in Glasgow plaats vond, schreven aanvoerders van het DRF-team Graham Ross (Austin-Smith:Lord) en Jeroen Zuidgeest (Studio for New Realities) gezamenlijk een artikel over de urgenties van onze tijd en de aanpak voor de toekomstige ontwikkeling van Glasgow.