Glasgow’s Golden Z Reimagined for Generation Z
by Shoosmiths LLP
The jewel in Glasgow’s famous shopping crown is known as the ‘Golden Z’, referencing the ‘Z’ shape which the famous shopping streets create – Buchanan Street linking Argyle Street to Sauchiehall Street.
But times have changed, the place for this one-time shoppers paradise looks less certain; footfall in city centres has fallen drastically since the pandemic with the huge uptick in home working which has shone a light on the questionable viability of enormous shopping centres and reams of high street stores, many of which now sit unoccupied. As at the end of 2022, 36% of all shops, offices and residential properties on Sauchiehall Street were vacant, some having been for many years. It seems the time has now come to reconsider, reimagine, repurpose and reinvigorate our city centre to accurately reflect our needs and wants. Spending habits have also changed with the cost of living crisis, and we now focus more on environmental factors and considerations in conducting daily activities – is it environmentally friendly to travel to a shopping centre when almost anything is readily available at the click of a button?
The breadth of retail premises we once needed, nay craved, has significantly contracted, but what to do about the existing stock? Some buildings may have reached the end of their natural life, or may simply prove too costly to regenerate, and in those cases a rebuild may be the only option. There will always be investor appetite to snap up Grade A office/mixed use buildings, but these must sit comfortably alongside those older, yet still worthy, buildings. The key lies in the redevelopment of those for new purposes, like the creation of residential developments. With the city centre no longer being a primary place of work and retail (and coming with those uses, the pitfalls of noise and traffic), it appears that people will be more keen to live in the city. A number of such high-profile developments are underway or in the pipeline. In December, Glasgow City Council approved planning permission in principle for a landmark development at Lancefield Quay to develop a 1.6 hectare brownfield site into a build-to-rent (BTR) neighbourhood comprising 730 homes, a gym, offices and other commercial uses. At the Broomielaw, GRAHAM Building has completed the core structure of the £100m BTR development creating 498 apartments, standing as one of Glasgow’s tallest buildings at 20 storeys. GRAHAM (appointed by Drum Property Group) has also now commenced delivery of the £62m Candleriggs Square development consisting of 346 BTR units, scheduled for completion in Summer 2024. These examples clearly show a push towards city centre living, but what about the Golden Z itself? With such a concentration of structures and existing letting arrangements in place, surely that’s a trickier puzzle to solve?
Glasgow City Council have appointed a consultancy team comprising Stantec, Threesixty Architecture and Kevin Murray Associates, to engage with landowners, businesses, residents and the public to produce a new Vision for the area in and around the Golden Z. This project will consider the change in retail trends, the growing desire for city centre living and what to do about vacant buildings. Beyond that, there is a clear requirement for significant redevelopment of two landmark shopping centres – St Enoch and Buchanan Galleries. The intention is that St Enoch Centre will be subject to a redevelopment plan over the next 15-20 years split into a number of phases whereby the existing centre will be demolished and in its place 1700 homes, offices, retail space and a hotel will be sited. Landsec, owner of Buchanan Galleries, is proposing to demolish it and replace it with a development of residential and commercial units, with more green and public spaces; the first phase of works scheduled for completion in 2027 but the development as a whole is likely to take over a decade. Landsec are also seeking to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable development by using low carbon tech and alternative energy sources. What these institutional landlords do about existing tenants and termination of their lease arrangements is an issue they will need to resolve with their respective legal teams, and the detail is unlikely to fall into the public realm.
Preparation of the Council’s Vision will run until the end of March 2023 during which time the public is invited to view plans and share their views on how the Golden Z can be improved to properly reflect current and future requirements. The Vision will also consider the proposals at the St Enoch Centre and Buchanan Galleries, and any critical matters for intervention or where there may be investment opportunities.
It is clear to see that even during a time of economic turbulence there is a hunger for change and that will see investment in the city, the creation of significant workstreams and jobs for years to come, and the hopeful result of the restoration of the city centre as a retail hub, but now also as a magnet for city centre living and working, but in a more focused and sustainable way.