WORK is underway to improve the ‘look and feel’ of Glasgow city centre to help drive forward the recovery and revitalisation of the area following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The city’s council has launched a task force to undertake the works, which includes dressing the exterior of vacant shopfront; finding temporary uses for retail buildings currently not in use; encouraging a café culture; and the deep clean of streets and graffiti removal.
Community enforcement officers are being funded to support visitors to the city centre, report issues including anti-social behaviour, and assist businesses with emerging issues. The work is being supported by almost £2 million in Scottish Government funding, with it aiming to help the city in its response to Covid and its wider and longer-term issues.
Additional work supported by the funding includes a new visitor campaign with accompanying events to attract Glaswegians and visitors back to the city centre. Work will also involve expert studies focusing on the long-term future for the city centre – including repurposing properties for future demand and use, and a blueprint for how Glasgow adapts to the ‘huge’ structural changes affecting city centres globally.
The Glasgow city task force is co-chaired by councillor Angus Millar, convener for city centre recovery at Glasgow City Council, and Stuart Patrick, chief executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. Membership also includes representatives from the Scottish and UK Governments and core city centre sectors such as retail, hospitality, events, and the night-time economy.
Councillor Millar said, “The practical steps to improve the look and feel of the city centre after the devastation of the pandemic are now underway. Businesses and residents want to see cleaner streets, the blight of vacant properties addressed, graffiti removed and to enjoy more events and café culture on our streets.
“This Scottish Government funding will really assist in achieving those aims and in attracting more visitors to the city centre and restoring the vibrancy and vitality Glasgow is renowned for. It will also help us plan for those longer-term shifts which cities across the world are facing, including the relentless rise of online retail and need to adapt to climate change and deliver a city centre fit for the next century.
“A sustainable future for the city centre means a better mix of uses, from shopping and hospitality to offices and residential, and we are working locally and with the Scottish Government to plan for the changes we need.”
Stuart Patrick, co-chair of the city centre task force, added, “The beginning of the programme to the support city centre recovery is an encouraging development. We all know that Glasgow city centre has suffered badly from the pandemic and businesses will be keen to see footfall return and the funding from Scottish Government to support such work is very much welcomed.
“Glasgow’s footfall is still well below its pre-pandemic levels with the shortfall now 21% lower than 2019 levels. This equates to 930,000 less visitors in the city centre last month, which unfortunately has contributed towards city centre ground floor unit vacancy rates increasing by 23% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“This programme will not only help improve the centre’s look and feel but will actively support a marketing campaign to draw consumers back to enjoy our retail, hospitality and leisure offerings. We will also continue to support the work of the city centre taskforce in finding new uses for so many of the shop units and older offices that are now vacant.
“Driving footfall back into our city must remain a priority for all levels of government and the beginning of this programme will be welcomed by all businesses across the city.”