We have spent the past few weeks since the summit, reviewing and collating the feedback and identifying the priorities for Aberdeen Inspired and partners to focus on in the coming months.
The input from attendees and the considered ideas and suggestions which came from the sessions have been invaluable in helping us map the next steps in setting out a plan to help rejuvenate Union Street.
Our main focus will be the launch of an exciting new initiative to repopulate Union Street with businesses and people. This builds on the idea of a coalition with the sole remit to reverse Union Street’s fortunes, which was well received at the summit.
We’ve been moving at considerable pace in discussions with stakeholders and will be able to unveil the details in the new year once all the pieces are in place.
Around 170 people attended the summit, generating a diverse range of idea and suggestions, several of which related to a general tidy up including removing weeds, repairing doorways and windows, cleaning the facades of buildings, repairing and cleaning pavements and sprucing up existing street furniture. Safety concerns were also high on the agenda, along with the need for more creative lighting.
Aberdeen Inspired has already been in touch with partners to re-instate the City Centre Safety Partnership and will work with others on the cleanliness of Union Street and on supporting lighting projects that focus on significant buildings and dark areas of Union Street.
Addressing the issue of the increasing number of vacant properties on Union Street, which had been one of the driving issues which led to the emergency summit, was one of the key topics of discussion. There was a call for a strategic, joined up approach and the summit also generated ideas such as reward schemes for businesses or individuals who introduce a business which subsequently takes a unit, or filling empty units with local entrepreneurs, creatives and charities.
Aberdeen Inspired was already working with other partners to develop a vacant unit strategy. But, in the interim, we are developing a short-term solution to improve the look of vacant properties, whereby businesses and organisations would be encouraged to adopt a vacant property and transform its exterior. The input from those who attended the summit and the new ideas put forward will be instrumental in drawing up a longer-term solution.
Other themes which came from the summit included:
- Creation of a stand-alone brand, marketing campaign and digital presence for Union Street
- Encouraging and facilitating greater residential occupancy, including accommodation for students, and other amenities for students
- Acceleration and streamlining of planning processes and simplifying planning zones
- A wide range of suggestions relating to financial incentives such as access to cheaper debt, business rates discounts tied into initiatives to clean business frontages, loans tied into upgrading buildings and setting up a regional investment fund
- Certain areas were also identified as meriting particular attention including aesthetically improving the steps leading to the Green, and suggestions that Union Street, as one of the longest streets in the country, be split into distinct geographic zones, the latter of which aligns to recent proposals in the City Centre Masterplan
- Initiatives which would make it easier for new or start-up business, including pop up shops, to open up on Union Street as well as a number of suggestions and incentives to encourage independent retailers to locate there
- Suggestions put forward to improve accessibility included improving connectivity between Union Street with other locations such as TECA, greener transport, a hop on/hop off bus, cheaper parking
There were also suggestions to raise Union Street’s profile as a destination through initiatives such as city tours, a major city centre attraction, attracting and creating quirky venues to accommodate diverse events and more city centre events screened at venues such as Union Terrace Gardens, and creating a café culture.
To find out how you can continue to be involved in the rejuvenation of Union Street, the heart of our city, please contact Aberdeen Inspired by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or here.
Photo credit- Flickr.com, denisbin