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Glasgow a Dream City for Property Investors

I’ll be in London most of next week.

I’m spending a day at the British Chambers of Commerce exploring what more we can do as a Chamber to expand our services to members. 

In particular I have a special interest in growing our work to help members to access international markets. We are drawing up our Business Plan for the next three years and we would like to see Glasgow Chamber making much more of the international Chambers network than we have been able to do to date.

For most of the week though I will be at MIPIM UK in Earls Court, supporting the Glasgow team in promoting the city to potential investors. 

The story we have to tell is pretty powerful.  Glasgow is a transformed city.  Economically it has size, skills and a sectoral spread that promises really strong growth in the years ahead. 

Sometimes I think we have a tendency to talk about Glasgow as a small city because we are impressed at the sheer scale of the urban centres that have emerged in China, Africa and South America.

It’s true that the world’s megacities dwarf our home town, but in European terms we are a Top 30 city with a Greater Glasgow population of just under 1.8 million people and growing.  That puts us alongside major continental cities like Brussels, Amsterdam, Turin and Lyon.   And we are a city brimming with investment opportunity.

At MIPIM the main investor attention will be on property projects.  The depth of our skills base and the strength of our industry sectors remain the most fundamental evidence of future growth but to attract property investors we also have to have commercial physical projects in which they can invest. 

Glasgow’s transformation story could be described very crudely in three waves.  First came early attention in the 1980s and 1990s to the city centre as the primary generator of wealth and employment, followed in the first decade of the new century by an ambitious development plan for the River Clyde. 

The 2008 financial crisis slowed down the river’s development, but during the Commonwealth Games you couldn’t help but appreciate what has been achieved, for example, at the whole district around Pacific Quay, the SECC and the Clyde Arc.

The third wave was also integrally linked to the Commonwealth Games, supporting the rebirth of the traditional East End. The opening of the M74 extension, the Emirates Arena and Clyde Gateway’s work in Dalmarnock, Bridgeton and Shawfield makes the East End a genuine option for investment.

And now we have the City Deal, which adds funding support to the next stages of development in each of the city centre, the River Clyde and the wider East End. 

The Council has produced a first suite of potential investment projects including the hugely impressive redevelopment proposal for Sighthill, the growth of the City Science innovation district, where the University of Strathclyde opened its Technology Innovation Centre in the summer, and the next steps for Collegelands which would continue the steady march east of the boundaries of the city centre.  Clyde Gateway has its own suite of projects for the East End; including its National Business District project in Shawfield.

In the City Centre we have seen the delivery of three speculative Grade A office development which property professionals expect to be taken up fairly quickly.  So there is a growing belief that an ambitious proposal for the next round of Grade A office space centred on Argyle Street could be attractive. 

Equally there is no shortage of interest in adding to the city’s hotel stock, and with occupancy rates over 90% that is no surprise.  Add in Glasgow University’s own £800m campus development plan for the site of the Western Infirmary and it really isn’t that difficult to show private investors that Glasgow is a good place for their money.

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