FOR all the numbers that get attached to it, “legacy” is still a rather difficult thing to define. It’s not just about building 10,000 new homes, or creating 21,000 new jobs – targets the Commonwealth Games are meant to deliver to Glasgow’s East End. It also requires a shift in outlook and a sense that things are getting better.
That has been the case in Finnieston, now arguably the city’s most iconic panorama. The cantilever crane, the Armadillo, the Squinty Bridge and the Hydro “spaceship” formed the backdrop that more than a billion viewers saw repeatedly throughout the broadcasting of the Games. Together, they are quintessentially modern Glasgow, not to be mistaken for any other city on the planet.
With a profusion of new hotels, housing, businesses and entertainment, Finnieston has moved beyond regeneration and into sustained growth. The East End, on the other hand, is still awaiting delivery on promises made more than 40 years ago.
Those covenants came in the form of the Greater Eastern Area Renewal scheme, the largest urban regeneration project of its time anywhere in Europe. But 11 years of massive effort from 1976 onwards failed to erase the damage of previous decades, when the closure of factories, shops and public services coiled into a seemingly endless downward spiral.
The legacy of the Games is the best opportunity in a lifetime or more to reverse that decline, and everyone knows it, but there are concerns that that focus has drifted in the furore of the referendum. That’s why Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief Stuart Patrick decided to hold the group’s regular business breakfast meeting at The Olympia in Bridgeton Cross last week.
Boarded up for years, the B-listed Olympia has been transformed into a community hub and is a symbol of aspirations for the wider East End – a Finnieston-style resurrection. Ian Manson, who heads up Clyde Gateway, told chamber members about new homes, new offices, new industrial space and new businesses moving into the area.
But much more remains to be done. Just 3,000 of the 21,000 promised jobs have been delivered so far, while four-fifths of the targeted 10,000 homes have yet to be built.
Funded with about £100 million in government money since it was set up in 2009, Clyde Gateway has a 20-year timeframe in which to overhaul the East End. With development land and similar assets now at its disposal, it will serve out its tenure even as government support falls from tens of millions per year, but Manson argues that guaranteed “core funding” of about £5m annually will hasten the transformation.
Picking up the pace would certainly reinforce a positive outlook. Residents of the East End have waited far too long for change, and if the support in Glasgow for independence is anything to go by, then their patience is clearly wearing thin. «