Argyle Street

Assessment Summary

This part of Argyle Street spans from Kelvingrove Museum, to the new Anderston residential scheme. A vibrant, street has sprung up in the last ten years between these bookends. The qualities of diversity and social mix have been kept and the mix of culture, sport, residential, retail, bars and restaurants create a mixed and exhilarating great street.

At either end Glasgow City Council has applied policies and to create world class places for people. The road between demonstrates governance of the opposite type. This has a light touch in policy terms that allows entrepreneurs and urban pioneers to create attractive urban qualities from organic growth. The contrast between these two planning regimes illustrates both extremes of current urbanism. Some of the success has happened by chance and luck. Kelvin Campbell’s new book ‘Making Massive Small Change’ (2018), details this process across the world and this is a great example. The Glasgow City Development Plan was adopted in March 2017 and policy CDP1 – The Placemaking Principle is well demonstrated here as the positive qualities have sprung from a place based approach to enhancing amenity.

This part of Argyle Street is within the Waterfront at West End Innovation Quarter (WFWEI) which is a £113 million investment programme for this post-industrial part of Glasgow. The motorway cuts off Argyle Street to the eastern part within the City Centre. The University of Glasgow and Scottish Enterprise are involved in the WFWEI and this will drive more exciting innovation in this area. Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Community Council are a very active Community Council and are working on the Cycle Village Proposal and other initiatives. There were community consultation exercises held during the Anderston Masterplan exercise.

In 2016 The Times survey voted Finnieston as one of the “hippest place to live” in the UK. The team’s visit demonstrates that the urban pioneers have created a vibrant street with an excellent mix of independent shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. The Scottish Events Campus contains the Hydro and the Armadillo which has increased footfall when events are held here.

Argyle Street was originally a drover’s road to bring cattle in from the Highlands and Islands. As the road crosses the River Kelvin it drops towards the city centre and is lined with 4 storey tenements clad in sandstone. The street is rich in ethnic and cultural diversity as shown by the nearby Central Gurdwara, the Baitur Rahman Mosque and the Vajrayana Buddhist Centre. Kelvingrove Park hosts the annual Glasgow Mela Festival and the mix of food offers in the street is extremely diverse. The residential mix between socially rented, privately rented, and home ownership is 33% of each sector. This mix has allowed economic uplift to occur without displacement of local residents and demonstrates social cohesion.

The new housing at the Anderston is by client Sanctuary as the clients and Collective Architecture. The City must be congratulated in the demolition of the 1960s blocks despite many political obstacles. The architects have recreated the route of Argyle Street which was (destroyed 50 years ago) and created an exceptional piece of urban design. The distinctive tall shopfronts are being renovated in a sensitive and appropriate manner and they have created a modern high-quality interpretation which sets the bar high for future developments in the street. The Old Police station is an important site at the Assessors would like to have seen a design code attached to the site.

In ten short years the street has undergone a creative revolution. This is not the crude gentrification that often characterises the post-industrial redevelopment of inner cities. These changes have enhanced and preserved the ethnic, social and age mix. Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery is a spectacular example of this as the entrance hall is conceived as a piece of public realm. Glasgow is owned by its people and the combination of free admission, eclectic exhibits and events has created a social mixing point here. The University and the International Financial Services District offer large-scale employment opportunities. The Skypark and Hidden Lane offer incubation space for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The tenement typology creates a distinctive four-storey edge which gives a strong proportion to the street. The night-time economy is stimulating without being too dominant. The Council has applied a light touch to restrict too many licensed premises. Natural surveillance is provided by residential users above the shops. The Community Council actively manages social issues and reinforces community cohesion.

The legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games is shown in the bowling greens and tennis courts. The Kelvin Hall Sports Arena is light, bright and welcoming and the Kelvingrove Path is a healthy green resource adjacent to this well-used street.

Ten years of investment has created growth and revitalisation where each pound invested is multiplied many times. A brief list includes: Kelvingrove Museum refurbishment (2006), Creative Clyde, BBC Scotland (2009), the Clyde Arc Bridge, SSE Hydro (2013), and SWG3 (2008). This street offered flexible spaces at reasonable rents and this encourages colonisation by local creative entrepreneurs.

The enthusiasm for Argyle Street from business was contagious and it demonstrated clearly how bottom up regeneration can thrive when creative industries grow organically. The New Glasgow Society was established in Argyle Street in 1965 to promote public interested in the character of Glasgow. Their presence in this street has acted as a catalyst. The “Glasgow Guarantee” helps modern apprenticeships for local residents. The Scotch Bonnet recording studio and the music hub has benefitted from this for example. Business Gateway is a public funded business support organisation which contributes to the area.

A walkable city is promoted by the Glasgow City Plan and Argyle Street is an outstanding example of this. The Anderston Regeneration Scheme has created sophisticated, environmentally-friendly housing with excellent landscaping, material choices and sustainable features.

This street is showing how the Glasgow tenement model can be creatively reused to suit modern living aspirations. This achievement should be celebrated internationally. We were shown reuse of existing buildings which were thoughtful, innovative, and successful. Empty retail units have been allowed to become restaurant and catering space. Industrial back lanes have become incubator hubs for start-ups. New student housing has created a vibrant university quarter and helped reduce HMOs and improve the quality of the housing stock.

The street is dominated by the carriageway and cars at 30mph. There do not seem to be plans to improve this. The Connect 2 project took a disconnected walkway from the 1970s and turned it into an award-winning safe link across the motorway to re-establish the broken connection to Argyle Street central and east with wellbeing benefits.

The long straight street with four-storey sandstone buildings at the back of the pavement creates a very strong, legible axis that focuses at the centre of Glasgow. The vandalism of the 1960s redevelopment destroyed this iconic view. It is a great pleasure to see the view reformed. This is a major event in terms of the urban legibility of Finnieston. Kelvingrove Museum and Kelvin Hall has been adapted to provide world-class accessibility. The public realm improvements for Argyle Street in 2019 will include a full Equality Impact Assessment.

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