There will be strong investor interest in Glasgow if the £825m plan to demolish Buchanan Galleries and build a new urban quarter goes ahead, a property expert has predicted.
Louise Norris, a city-based commercial property partner at legal firm Lindsays, believes the redevelopment would be an “exciting prospect” for businesses.
She added that a “joined-up approach” to revamping the city centre is needed, looking at Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street too.
This week, Glasgow’s city centre taskforce announced plans to review the “current Style Mile” — Argyle, Buchanan and Sauchiehall streets — due to retail trends and the increase in empty units and sites.
It intends to take a “masterplanning approach” to create a mix of uses, including shops, homes, bars, restaurants, and leisure venues.
The taskforce, which has public and private sector members, is chaired by cllr Angus Millar and Stuart Patrick, the chief executive of Glasgow’s Chamber of Commerce.
Plans for the review have been revealed just weeks after the council agreed to talks with the head tenant of Buchanan Galleries, Landsec, over the transformation and as big name retailers, such as Marks and Spencer, pull out of Sauchiehall Street.
Cllr Millar said the three main streets are “at the heart of Glasgow’s shopping district, but we know the retail sector is changing”.
“Securing a vibrant, sustainable future for the city centre will mean supporting a range of uses – including retail, hospitality, office and residential – and undertaking a masterplanning approach will help identify the right mix for these key destination streets.”
Lindsays partner Ms Norris believes a “big picture approach” is vital if the new blueprint will help the city reach its full potential.
She said: “I would expect there to be healthy interest from investors looking to become part of what could emerge from the Buchanan Galleries area, both in terms of developing and setting up businesses there. It’s an exciting prospect.
“Just look at the transformation of the Merchant City in recent times as an example of what can be achieved to create a welcoming, successful area. There’s an opportunity to deliver that on a wider scale.
“A joined-up approach with everything else going on throughout the city centre will be an important part of wider success for the city, though.
“By taking holistic action across the whole area – from Sauchiehall Street, down Buchanan Street to Argyll Street – there’s a chance to have developments which compliment each other and create a great overall experience.
“Hopefully the plans for Buchanan Galleries and the St Enoch Centre can really unlock that potential.”
At St Enoch Centre, there are currently plans for a £50m transformation which includes 1700 new homes, offices and a four-star hotel.
The rise of online shopping as well as the pandemic, and workers spending less time in offices, has left a once-thriving retail sector struggling.
Ms Norris added: “There’s no hiding from the challenges that the retail sector faces.
“Changing habits accelerated by the impacts of Covid-19 mean that bigger shops are going to have difficulties.
“But the plans which are emerging show that out of those challenges are coming opportunities to create a city centre that is stronger and more sustainable, economically and environmentally.
“Mixed-use city centres — where people can live, work and enjoy leisure time — are going to be an important part of a vibrant, successful future.”