EMBRACING the outdoor lifestyle and climate proofing parts of the city centre could be the way forward for Glasgow, according to a leading professor.
Professor Rohinton Emmanuel, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said while people haven’t been put off returning to the city as restrictions ease the kind of experience they want from it has changed.
He said changing its offering and becoming a climate proof city to allow an outdoor lifestyle, even in the west of Scotland’s often dreich elements, could be key to moving forward.
And what was a city known for its Style Mile and shopping attractions, the professor in Sustainable Design and Construction said people had already been changing their shopping habits pre-pandemic.
“There had already been a switch to online shopping before the pandemic and it was in a way an activity in the city. So what do you replace it with? This is a great opportunity for a rethink,” said Professor Emmanuel. “The single activity focus could help city centre regeneration as it had been over-relying on retail for some years now so maybe this is now an opportunity. You could offer people the notion of an experience.
“Embracing the outdoor lifestyle and climate proofing the city centre all year round could also be key. People go to Southern Europe on holiday and live an outdoor lifestyle so it is not against our culture. It is about changing the way we live. Other countries, such as Finland where it should be impossible for them to have the outdoor lifestyle in winter, manage it. Creating arcades and temporary wind shelters would be options.”
While Glasgow is known as the Dear Green Place with more than 90 parks, its city centre is far less green. Only three per cent of open space in Glasgow City centre is ‘publicly accessible parks and green spaces.’
“It really is a small percentage of what they think of as the city centre which is green and maybe the idea of a city park would work.
“We have seen evidence of green infrastructures in the city already with The Avenues project and perhaps using the waterfront more would help open up more space.”
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said that even before the pandemic, the city centre in Glasgow – like nearly all such centres all over the world – was seeing changes in use, notably in the retail sector, and as is commonly observed, the pandemic accelerated these changes.
“Our City Centre Strategy was already in place, preparing to meet the challenges of a city centre whose population is increasing and whose celebrated retail offering (traditionally the UK’s biggest retail destination outside of London’s West End) was facing up to increased online shopping and changing consumer needs, and the idea of a more rounded and enhanced experience was certainly in a lot of minds – and remains so,” the spokesman added. “Our key response to the pandemic’s impact on the city centre was the establishing of the City Centre Task Force, bringing together local and national governments and representatives of the various sectors who make the city centre so attractive to visitors, to bring support to the area’s businesses and organisations and develop a route to economic recovery.”
The spokesman added: “In terms of what would attract people to the ‘outdoor’ city centre in winter, in pre-pandemic times there were many attractions such as Christmas markets on city streets, and we work closely with the area’s shopping centres and premises to support what is possible in terms of outdoor dining and entertainment. It should be noted that the waterfront, like the rest of the city centre, will be reactivated in a number of ways in the coming years to make it a much greener, more sustainable and attractive place – a visit to the Clydeside on either side of the river’s banks in central Glasgow these days will show how much activity is currently taking place there.”