Finnieston is fantastic, but it’s time for the city fathers to chip in with a facelift By Alan Gordon
Finnieston is a Glasgow phenomenon. There are no two ways about it. The strip described by a commentator recently as having been “the West End’s delinquent older brother” has settled down and started earning a living.
In the buzzing, bustling Argyle Street corridor between Anderston and Yorkhill, there are now an estimated 40 quirky, quality restaurants and bars – all thriving in an area which previously struggled to support a chip shop.
Finnieston is now competing strongly with Byres Road’s Ashton Lane and the Merchant City, which of course benefits from being on the doorstep of the City Chambers. When there is a show on at the Hydro – in whose halo effect Finnieston basks – vacant tables are like hen’s teeth.
The original ingredient in this unusual and spontaneous regeneration was the transfer of the BBC to Pacific Quay, on the other side of the river. Media people need somewhere to lunch and Argyle Street was closer than Byres Road. STV followed, and the 13,000-seat Hydro was the icing on the cake.
The private sector has been instrumental in the Finnieston Corridor’s remarkable success, with a wholehearted commitment by leisure entrepreneurs to quality and service and a willingness among lenders to fund their vision.
But dear, oh dear, for all the pzazz and passion in the eateries and cocktail joints, the external environment is jarringly disappointing – scruffy, neglected and cluttered with rampant street signage and overflowing bins.
It is hard not to wish that, faced with such a stunning commercial success story on its doorstep, the local authority might feel inclined to contribute something to Finnieston with a new urban partnership which could only be of benefit to the city and its depleted coffers.
What do I mean by that? Well, there can be few Scots who have not holidayed in similar leisure environments abroad and marvelled at the fact that there are no potholes, no dog mess, no chewing gum and no litter – all of which are all too prevalent in Finnieston.
The tragedy is that all the pieces of a really classy urban leisure district are there: they just need to be shoogled into place.
For instance, running parallel to the Finnieston Corridor is Sauchiehall Street, with an excellent range of hotels. It should not be beyond the wit of traffic planners to divert the bulk of the cars and commercial vehicles from Argyle Street along there.
This could create either a fully pedestrianised environment, in the continental fashion, or widened pavement areas where existing restaurants could double their covers in the right weather with outdoor seating – as well as brightening up the street.
Planners need look no further than the Merchant City for inspiration about the importance of welcoming streetscape. Elements such as tree foliage, dynamic lighting and area free wifi could be added to the mix.
And everyone in the area – restaurateurs and residents alike – would breathe a sigh of relief if the city could alleviate some of the horrendous parking issues, perhaps by building dedicated facilities in some of the vacant sites near the Corridor.
What’s in it for the city? Apart from the further burnishing of its reputation as a top tourist destination, Glasgow already benefits substantially from the rates generated by businesses which have opened up in previously unproductive commercial assets.
It is more than likely that improvements to the local environment would also encourage private landlords to enhance the amenities – and, consequently, the rental values – of the surrounding stock of tenement properties.
Private businesses and leisure sector investors in Finnieston have started a very exciting ball rolling. It would be extremely gratifying to see the relevant Glasgow authorities pick it up and run with it.
Alan Gordon is the Principal Commercial Partner for DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.
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