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Glasgow prioritises office-to-residential conversions to kickstart a struggling core

November 16 2022

Glasgow prioritises office-to-residential conversions to kickstart a struggling core

Glasgow is considering how best to repurpose city centre buildings amidst research indicating that the pandemic has wreaked a heavier toll on the city than others.

A report into the city centre economy conducted by Stantec found that a comparatively small residential population and a reliance on regional commuting have placed the city at a disadvantage when contending with the rise of hybrid working. This is reflected in a near £1bn shortfall in economic activity of just £8.27bn, versus the pre-pandemic figure of £9.2bn.

Other indicators paint a similar picture of decline with city centre footfall remaining 19% below pre-Covid levels, with weekly and lunchtime footfall struggling to regain lost ground at 84% of pre-pandemic levels. This has not been offset by a rise in weekend and evening footfall of 11 and 18% respectively.

Compounding these issues has been a rise in energy costs as well as staff shortages which have propelled office vacancy rates to 14%.

A tandem report into city centre property conducted by Ryden shows that these shifts are fueling migration towards smaller, high quality and flexible spaces. Across the city more than 400 offices predating 1960 are now classed as obsolete, sparking renewed interest in conversion for residential use.

Particular emphasis is being placed on the upper floors of Victorian and Georgian properties with calls for greater incentivisation to prevent properties from lying empty for extended periods.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: "Specifically, the report identifies clear objectives in helping our recovery which are achievable and can be implemented immediately. Issues such as bringing older units which are no longer fit for purpose back into active use, helping the city meet targets for growing its residential population and working in partnership with developers to maximise the opportunity of catalytic developments, including existing proposals for Buchanan Galleries and St Enoch Centre..."

To address these issues Glasgow has pledged to work with the Scottish and UK governments to develop an action plan over the next two years to inform its City Centre Strategy.

8 Comments

Graeme McCormick
#1 Posted by Graeme McCormick on 16 Nov 2022 at 17:12 PM
The best incentive is to introduce AGFRR on all buildings and sites whether owned by the public or private sector. The liability to pay it will focus the mond wonderfully, and ifthe owners are unabkle or unwilling to pay the AGFRR they will soon dispose of their properties to those who will. Why shoiuld the public purse subsidise poor stewardship of land and buildings?
Passerby
#2 Posted by Passerby on 16 Nov 2022 at 19:43 PM
#1 sounds great but I'm sure there will be mission creep and unintended consequences as dodgers will always dodge their responsibilities. Actually a positive might be that we see land/property sold and making it into the registrars books as a lot is still passed down and avoided the public eye. Though still no danger of us seeing any royal land.
Lovely
#3 Posted by Lovely on 18 Nov 2022 at 12:08 PM
Totally agree with #1. Totally disagree with #2. People breaking laws is not a reason not to have them. It just needs to be put together intelligently to discourage hoarding of empty properties, which is an ongoing disaster for the city.
Passerby
#4 Posted by Passerby on 18 Nov 2022 at 23:39 PM
#3 'people breaking laws is not a reason not to have them'
You want to reconsider.....
Gandalf the Grey
#5 Posted by Gandalf the Grey on 21 Nov 2022 at 11:48 AM
The council taxing retail property at ridiculous levels on the assumption that it was some kind of golden goose is one of the reasons we are in this mess - very little to do with Covid in my view - all AGFRR will do is extend the same principle to all commercial property. You can blame the internet for the decline of retail, but IMHO excessive rents and excessive business rates resulted in accountancy led business models where everyone sold the same tat at excessive prices, and drove small innovative retailers out - a recipe for failure. More inner city residential has to be the way forward.
Gandalf the Grey
#6 Posted by Gandalf the Grey on 21 Nov 2022 at 19:00 PM
What I am saying is that it seems to me that you are confusing the carrot and the stick.
Passerby
#7 Posted by Passerby on 22 Nov 2022 at 05:53 AM
#GtG you want more residential but offer no solution as to how to achieve that. Lion chambers and the much moaned about Egyptian Halls have lain empty for years - would AGFRR change that? Maybe with assistance of 0% tax on materials for reconstruction. That enough carrot?
Nairn's Bairn
#8 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 22 Nov 2022 at 08:58 AM
@Gandalf I absolutely agree.

I had to look up what AGFRR was - turns out it's Annual Ground, Floor, Roof Rent and is an independence related theory on funding the country advocated by Mr McCormick. The total spend of Scotland is divided up between property owners according to type of property/land.

Whatever the merits of this idea it does indeed seem like a 'stick' approach.

Encouragement to utilise currently empty town centre properties would seem a positive way forward. Lose the incentive for commercial properties to keep upper floors empty, and encourage conversion of upper floors back to residential flats would be great for so many reasons. (Also, the current system of paying VAT on works to existing buildings but not for new-build has always struck me as odd).

The emptiness of cities at night is madness given the high level of infrastructure and empty property. Lets do something about it.

It may be argued that AGFRR would encourage the re-purposing of commercial property but it would be in a very different way - putting the boot into business, rather than encouraging private homes.

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