Repurposing of Glasgow City Centre Buildings

15th Nov 2022

1 West Regent Street

A report into how the repurposing of buildings in Glasgow city centre to help in the area's recovery after the pandemic was presented to a Glasgow City Council committee.  

The report refers to an evidence base from recent research - supported by Scottish Government recovery funding - into the impact of the pandemic on the property and economy of Glasgow city centre, and this evidence will guide future strategy and action in these areas.

The impact of the pandemic was felt keenly in Glasgow city centre due to extended and deep Covid restrictions combined with its relatively small residential population, a reliance on a regional travel to work population, more hybrid working and the effects of an economic crisis, Brexit and the war in Ukraine. Combined, these factors have led to both reduced footfall and visitor spend as business costs have increased. 

In addition, the impacts of the pandemic have also caused an acceleration in shifts in the demand for, and supply of property. Investors and occupiers of office space now seek high-quality, flexible and sustainable space, causing a significant amount of privately-owned commercial property in the city centre to be no longer fit for purpose, and the repurposing of such space is now key to the area's recovery. 

Research into the use of city centre property concluded that:

  • there is a general need for smaller, higher quality, more agile offices.
  • SMEs require affordable multi-occupied, managed centres.
  • more than 400 pre-1960 office spaces are seen as obsolete and are prime sites for conversion ot repurposing.
  • the conversion/repurposing of upper floors for residential use only results in small-scale outcomes (average of 10 units) and does not achieve the large-scale outcomes required to deal with the legacy of redundant office property.
  • declining rents in the retail and leisure sectors alongside the impact of online shopping, the need to accelerate adaptation, diversification and greening
  • hotels and hospitality have high fixed costs and reduced demand.
  • space is required for the city's growing technology and innovation sectors.

The Council will continue to work with the Scottish and UK Governments, and other city partners, to develop an action plan which will feed into the new City Centre Strategy.

Councillor Angus Millar, Convener for City Centre Recovery at Glasgow City Council, said: 

"The research into the challenges and opportunities facing the city centre underlines the need to consider what must be done to make it a thriving, sustainable place - and looking at how properties once used for retailing or commerce can be made into homes and other types of uses is just one course of action.  We will work with partners to ensure that all steps open to us are taken to make the changes necessary to create a city centre that is attractive as possible a place in which to work, live, study, invest and visit. The council will now engage with key stakeholders to respond to this evidence base and outline our aspirations for property repurposing in the new year."

Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: 

"This is an important step towards Glasgow's recovery from the pandemic. Our city centre has gone through a rapid transformation in the last few years and this report highlights the challenges we face but also the huge opportunities available when it comes to reshaping. 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, are all plans which we at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce fully support. The quality of these reports and the strategic direction upon which it wants to take the city centre forward should be welcomed and supported by all levels of Government as we look to grow and redevelop what Glasgow City Centre can offer its businesses, residents and visitors."

Two research reports were commissioned by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Glasgow City Council:

Glasgow City Centre Property Market Recovery and Support Interventions carried by Ryden 

Pandemic and Related Effects on Glasgow City Centre’s Economy carried out by Stantec