THE £1 billion project to overhaul Dundee’s waterfront will be the city’s equivalent of the 1970s oil boom for Aberdeen, a major tourism industry summit has heard.
City leaders have predicted the transformation - billed as a “natural extension” of the city - over the next 15-20 years with the opening of the new V&A Museum, as well as the creation of new business quarters, event spaces, parks, hotels, restaurants and other attractions.
Planners also hope to roll out one of Scotland’s biggest marinas, with around 400 berths, an urban beach - which will be transformed into an ice rink in winter - an overhaul of one of the world’s oldest surviving warships and a brand new railway station.
Delegates were told the V&A project is still on schedule to open in 2017, although work is not yet underway on Japanese architect Kengo Kuma’s futuristic building, which is predicted to have the same impact on Dundee as the Guggenheim attraction had on the Spanish city of Bilbao.
The business tourism conference in Edinburgh heard 7,000 new jobs and 1500 homes were planned to be created over the next 15-20 years on the waterfront, which was described as a “magical location”.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Mike Galloway, development director with Dundee City Council, said the city’s economy was being “completely turned around” thanks to a boom in digital media, computer, life science, energy industries and renewables.
He said: “We are seeing a real resurgence in our economy. It is the equivalent for Dundee that the oil boom was to Aberdeen that we are going to experience in the next 15-20 years, it really is that big a change for our city.
“We’ve studied what happened in Bilbao over the last 15 years and it is amazing how many similarities there are between the two cities. They decided to completely change their economic base.
“Although the number of visitors to the Guggenheim museum have stayed pretty much static over the years, the number of overnight visitors has increased dramatically and that’s predicted to continue. That’s because they’ve extended the offer in the city and are tapping more and more into the business tourism market.
“The growth areas in Bilbao have not just been in traditional tourism areas. There has been incredible growth in terms of computer and IT related areas, research and development and basic business activities. That gives us great cause for encouragement.
“I’m not sure people are aware of the scale ambition that is underway Dundee. The waterfront project is a £1 billion investment, one of the largest regeneration projects in the UK, stretching eight kilometres along the north side of the Tay estuary. It’s a huge step foward for Dundee.
Mr Galloway was speaking the day after Dundee was named Britain’s first Unesco City of Design, with the accolade being secured just months before work is finally due to start on the city’s long-awaited V&A attraction early next year.
Mr Galloway added: “We are creating a truly mixed-use, vibrant area and a true piece of the city that will function at all times of the day and night. The waterfront is not just dominated by housing, which is then perhaps be a bit sterile, and it is not dominated by offices, or pubs and clubs.
“There will also be new open space and public realm of a very high quality that will connect the river back into the heart of the city and also provide the context for the new V&A Museum.
“All of this will provide a real high-quality entry point into Dundee. In the past the city may have suffered from a poor first impression when you arrived in this waterfront area. What we’re going to deliver here is a really impressive one. These count and I think they will be very telling in terms of the investment decisions we see in the city in the future.”
Plans to create the first Victoria and Albert (V&A) attraction outside London were first announced seven years ago by Dundee University and the architect was appointed in 2010 after an international design context.
A complex funding package took years to put together, including £23.3 million from the Scottish Government and £9.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, while the start of work has been delayed until the council and its preferred contractor, BAM Construction, agree a price and detailed timescale for the project.
However in recent months the vast site where the project is earmarked for - next to the floating attraction RRS Discovery, the city’s famous polar exploration ship - has been completely cleared.
Philip Long, director of V&A Dundee, described the waterfront museum as “the most exciting project happening in Scotland,” but insisted it was not being developed “in isolation” and was at the heart of the city’s future ambitions.
He told the event: “V&A is known internationally as the world’s leading museum of art and design. It operates from its base in London around the world and soon Dundee will have the only other V&A museum in the world.
“It is a demonstrable fact - as has happened with Bilbao, Liverpool and Newcastle-Gateshead - that investment in culture and cultural regeneration generates new civic pride, changes perceptions and develops new interest.
“The city’s ambition now is an unprecedented one in its history. At the heart of V&A Dundee is to be an inspirational new presence in the city, but with a Scotland-wide mission to be something that is going to make a difference to the country overall.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS