Bonny by the Clyde: the regeneration of Glasgow
Bonny by the Clyde: the regeneration of Glasgow

Published FT June 20 2014

There’s an upright wooden post on the river Clyde that marks the end of the launch slipway of John Brown’s shipyard. Here many of the greatest ships of their day were launched: The Lusitania, HMS Hood and the QE2, among others. The massive Titan crane that loaded the guts of the ships into the hulls in the fitting-out basin is now a visitor centre overlooking the West College Scotland campus, which occupies the site today.

At the start of the 20th century, Glasgow, the “second city of the empire”, built 30 per cent of the world’s ships and exported steam locomotives around the globe. Clydebank’s Singer sewing machine factory, then the largest in the world, produced an average 13,000 machines a week.

Like other British cities, Glasgow has struggled with the aftermath of industrial decline. Yet, with its capacity for reinvention, the city has been working hard on its urban fabric. The tower blocks of the 1960s may have been a planning mistake, but more recent efforts have fared better. Glasgow hosted the third National Garden Festival in 1988 on the site of the Prince’s Dock, and the city’s international profile was boosted in 1990 when it was named European City of Culture. At the end of next month the city hosts the Commonwealth Games, and the latest regeneration efforts – including the athletes’ village – have focused on the banks of the Clyde.

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Seen from the river is the 14-storey New South Glasgow Hospital, which is currently under construction. Part of an £842m National Health Service campus, the adult and children’s hospitals, teaching and learning centre are set to be fully operational by July 2015.

“There is a focus on family housing in Glasgow, especially in inner urban areas such as Govan where new housing developments with around 500 residential units close to the hospital have been completed,” says Eric Forgie, of property consultants GVA.

Close by, Ferry Village in Renfrew is a riverfront transformation where six developers are building 2,000 homes, mostly apartments but also town houses, priced from £90,000 to £225,000, available via agents such as Savills and Slater, Hogg & Howison, or direct from developers, including Miller Homes. Further up the river, Braehead shopping centre stretches along the banks towards King George V Dock, which is still operational.

Some light industrial firms dot the river water frontage, but towards the city centre there are some notable buildings, which include the £74m Riverside Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid, which opened in 2011. Foster Partners’ £125m, 12,000-seat SSE Hydro building was unveiled in 2013 with a Rod Stewart concert, while Foster’s 1997 Clyde Auditorium cuts a dash with its reflective aluminium-clad roof, which has earned it the nickname “the armadillo”.

The completed residential blocks of the £1.2bn Glasgow Harbour development also overlook the river. A total of 1,150 units, out of a proposed 2,500 apartments, have been built.

On the south bank of the river, the media hub known as Creative Clyde is home to BBC Scotland, STV, a cluster of film, radio and TV production houses and the titanium-clad Glasgow Science Centre, an architectural representation of a ship’s hull that references the city’s industrial past.


©Savills Glasgow’s West End, where three-bedroom flats can sell for £575,000 (Photograph: Savills)

Employment is a vital part of regeneration, and the International Financial Services District (IFSD) has been a factor in Glasgow’s renaissance. Since its launch in 2001 the IFSD has created more than 15,500 jobs and more than 2.75m sq ft of office space. Further east, after the 2011 reopening of the M74 motorway extension, the 850-hectare Clyde Gateway area is to benefit from a planned £1.5bn spend to 2028, including new commercial, leisure and residential developments.

As companies relocate to the new business districts, existing premises can be put to new use. The former BBC West End HQ in the affluent West End of the city was recently put up for sale as a cleared site, with planning consent for 19 town houses and 75 apartments. The BBC’s North Park House, listed as a building of regional importance by Historic Scotland, was sold in 2012 to Stefan King, managing director of leisure operator G1 Group, for use as a private residence and company offices.

Six-bedroom house in Thorntonhall, £1.5m with Savills

G12, one of Glasgow’s established prime residential postcodes, which covers the West End areas favoured by young urban professionals, has held up in the downturn, according to Savills. In 2013, the average house price in G12 was £238,134, which is virtually unchanged from the 10-year average for the area. In Hyndland, £295,000 could get you a 1,400 sq ft, three-bedroom flat via Savills, or for £695,000 there is a 2,600 sq ft five-bedroom home in Kelvinbridge.

Houses in this area are rarely available and usually snapped up by developers for conversion into apartments.

Popular suburban family districts include Milngavie and Bearsden to the north, and Newton Mearns and Giffnock to the south. They are driven by “good-quality schooling, a big family market, with a good stock of Victorian and Edwardian family homes”, says Savills’ Andrew Perratt. Estate agent Rettie & Co is offering a detached villa in Bearsden in an acre of garden with tennis court for £1.45m.

©Stefano Amantini City-centre shopping (Photograph: Stefano Amantini)

Pollokshields is also a sought-after suburb and home to the Burrell Collection, a museum housing works by Degas and Cézanne. Shipping merchant and art collector Sir William Burrell’s former Grade-A listed residence in Glasgow’s West End has been converted into four mansion apartments of around 2,400 sq ft each. All were sold by the start of this year for between £555,000 and £615,000.

During the Commonwealth Games, 6,500 athletes will be housed in a new “eco-village” in the East End of Glasgow on the riverbank. The award-winning scheme’s low-rise blocks line landscaped streets near the Emirates Arena and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. After the games, all the one- to four-bedroom houses will have kitchens fitted; 300 of them are designated for private sale and 400 for affordable rent. Priced from £75,000 for a one-bedroom to around £200,000 for a four-bedroom detached house, City Legacy Homes, the consortium responsible for building the athletes’ village, offered 80 per cent of the homes in January. All of them were reserved. The rest will be offered in the autumn.

Beyond the games there are plans for large-scale regeneration in areas such as Sighthill, north of the city centre, where an estimated 650 new homes for sale or rent are planned. The nearby former Diageo distillery on Port Dundas is on sale as a development site and has 360-degree views over a city that is busy reimagining its past.

Paul Shearer was a guest of the IFSD


Buying guide

 Glasgow has a population of 600,000

 Greater Glasgow has four universities, colleges and other specialist higher education centres

The city is home to 42 per cent of Scotland’s actors, dancers and broadcasters, 38 per cent of its musicians and 29 per cent of its artists, according to Glasgow Cultural Statistics Digest, 2011

What you can buy for . . .

£500,000 Three- or four-bedroom apartment in a blonde sandstone conversion near the city centre

£1m Five- or six-bedroom detached villa in a leafy suburb such as Milngavie or Newton Mearns

£5m A 10-bedroom mansion in 2,000 acres, just a helicopter hop from the centre of Glasgow

Copyright. Financial Times 2014

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