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Why business is moving into Glasgow’s waterfront

In recent years, the waterfront area of Glasgow has become a new go-to destination for business.

January 30, 2020

Once Glasgow’s waterfront was known for its shipbuilding and industrial heritage, but now warehouses are giving way to office developments as it continues to establish its reputation as a modern business district.

Financial service giants including JP Morgan and Barclays and public sector bodies like HMRC are moving in, and others are contemplating relocating as the area along the southern bank of the Clyde undergoes wider regeneration.

“There’s been more interest this area in the last 12 months than there’s been in the last 12 years, so there’s quite a dramatic transformation taking place,” says Mike Buchan, JLL Glasgow lead director.

It marks the continuation of a southwards shift for Glasgow’s existing central business district, which is likely to accelerate in years to come.

“Glasgow has a compact city centre and finding the larger building footprint occupiers are increasingly looking for is more difficult,” says Buchan. “So, people are realising the waterfront area is a good option because it has the space for companies to build appropriate scale of offices to their specification in a location close to the key Glasgow transport connections.”

A place to live and work

Like other UK cities, Glasgow-based businesses are seeking modern, flexible buildings with inspiring external environments and nearby amenities such as cafes, gyms and restaurants that will attract and retain skilled workers.

As an example, Barclays is creating a further 2,500 jobs at an office campus as part of the Drum Property Group’s Buchanan Wharf development in a move that is believed to be the largest recorded office deal in the UK regions over the past decade. The development will also include a further 360 build-to-rent apartments to help accommodate the city’s growing workforce.

Meanwhile, HMRC will be based at the Atlantic Square development in Broomielaw, while fellow public sector departments, the DWP and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Services have recently relocated to the area. JPMorgan Chase has also just announced the development of a new technology hub for 1,750 people on Argyle Street.

Buchan says significantly, the local authorities are also supportive of the waterfront’s transformation. A £25 million investment in Custom House Quay, which will see the Quay walls improved, aims to pave the way for future redevelopment and usher in a new chapter for the area as a vibrant place to work and socialise.

“Glasgow City Council are acutely aware that Glasgow’s highly-regarded universities are producing the talent the city needs to thrive; now it’s all about providing the right environment and community to encourage them to remain in the city after graduation,” says Buchan. “Glasgow is facing competition from the major UK regional cities and beyond, therefore new commercial and residential developments are essential for the future success of the city.” 

Where next for the city?

Across the UK, young professionals are moving into city centres, attracted by the prospect of a modern urban lifestyle where stylish residential developments are complemented by a host of good quality amenities where they can relax and socialise. Glasgow City Council’s clear ambition to significantly increase the city centre population by 2035 will also support this vision.

“Going forward we’ll see much more residential developments and mixed-use schemes in the city centre that cater for this 24-hour lifestyle,” says Buchan. “But in order for this to happen, there needs to be more investment in the public realm to create attractive spaces which link the city districts together better and create places where people want to spend time.”

Change is already starting to happen. A masterplan for a mixed-use scheme in the Candleriggs Quarter is in the pipeline which will combine offices and homes with shops and leisure. Further along the waterfront towards the west end, a £100 million retail outlet is planned with restaurants, shops and a cinema.

“Glasgow’s skyline is certainly changing and there’s demand for taller buildings,” says Buchan. “So, areas like the waterfront, away from heritage buildings in the traditional city centre offer the opportunity to bring something new to the city.”