Let start-ups use empty offices, Glasgow urged

Re-use of urban spaces is a priority for Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Robert Perry
Re-use of urban spaces is a priority for Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Robert Perry
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CITY leaders and commercial property agents are set to explore ways of opening up more unused office space to start-up companies as part of broader plans to enhance the centre of Glasgow.

A summit is planned in April to discuss alternatives to standard long-term leases for empty spaces. This will focus mainly on buildings below the prime “Grade A” office designation.

The initiative is being driven by the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, which has identified the re-use of urban spaces as one of ten key priorities in a report published last week. The study, Tomorrow’s City Centre, calls for the deregulation of “policies that restrict the ability of city centre businesses and spaces to adapt 
to real-time changes in the demands from customers and citizens”.

Speaking at the launch of the report, which was delivered to Glasgow Science Centre by aerial drone, the chamber’s chief executive Stuart Patrick highlighted the “Renew Newcastle” initiative in Australia as one potential approach.

Within two years of its establishment in 2008, Renew Newcastle housed more than 80 new businesses across 150 empty buildings in the city. The programme was the forerunner for Renew Australia, a national campaign for community renewal and economic development.

Part of the Australian initiative rests on the use of rolling 30-day leases to provide more flexible and affordable work accommodation.

Patrick would like to see these deployed more widely across Glasgow to meet the needs of start-ups coming out of programmes like ESpark, the expanding business accelerator programme that opened its first incubator in Glasgow.

“One of the questions is where do they go when they come out of there?” Patrick said. “One of the things we are hearing back is that they have great difficulty in securing space in the city centre.”

There are no official figures on vacant city centre footage, but anecdotal evidence suggests a significant minority is lying empty.