Issue 6

DUNDEE: FROM WATERFRONT REDEVELOPMENT TO CITY ECONOMY REGENERATION

By David Milne, Partner, MacRoberts LLP

The redevelopment of the Dundee Waterfront has brought with it an air of excitement and a sense of a bright future, both for the economy of Dundee and the sustainability of growth for future generations in Tayside and Scotland as a whole.  The project is the brainchild of Mike Galloway, Director of City Development at Dundee City Council. His vision has been translated into hard action by a partnership between Scottish Enterprise and Dundee's local SNP following an initial £73m of public investment by the Scottish Government through the Cities Growth Fund. 

Whilst other cities also received funding and chose to spread it thinly across a number of projects, Dundee took the opportunity to put plans in motion to completely redevelop the Waterfront area

Whilst other cities also received funding and chose to spread it thinly across a number of projects, Dundee took the opportunity to put plans in motion to completely redevelop the Waterfront area, said to be detached from the City following the failed redevelopment in the 70's and 80's.  The now £1bn redevelopment is hoped to put Dundee on the map in cultural and business terms, leading the way for a wider economic and social regeneration unparalleled in the area since Victorian times.

The Dundee Waterfront project is split into five distinct development sites, each targeting a different area of the economy and property sectors:

•    Central Waterfront (Residential, Office, and Leisure)
•    City Quay (Residential, Retail, Marina)
•    Seabraes (Digital Media and Creative Industries)
•    The Port (Renewables Manufacturing and Processing)
•    Riverside (Green Space and Leisure)

The concentration on these areas will be advantageous for the City. They will create shovel ready lots to accommodate the talent, already abundant in the City, in sectors such as digital media and life sciences and in the nascent renewables space. This will promote retention of our graduates and hopefully promote new business start-ups in the purpose built, flexible office spaces built and to be built.  An action plan has already been put in place for Dundee's future generations through advising schools on the availability of careers that will match Dundee's newer industries. This showcases the already considerable effort under way in seeing the bricks and mortar regeneration as a driver for wider social improvement.

At present, the regeneration project is at its half-way stage. It has already impacted on Dundee's economy, providing much needed capital expenditure to help sustain construction and, albeit to a lesser extent, professional services. Dundee has been placed on the map as a result of the marketing of the project, the securing of lottery funding and attracting the build of the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum, a £45m project being built next to the Tay, due to open in 2015.  This is now the keystone around which all other development will take place.

Dundee has been placed on the map as a result of the marketing of the project, the securing of lottery funding and attracting the build of the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum

The V&A has committed to provide Dundee, for at least 20 years, with its major, often world-class touring exhibitions, giving visitors a reason to come to Dundee on more than one occasion.  The V&A proposal in itself has led to two major luxury hotel developments in a marked upgrade for local provision. However, the drivers behind the project must stay on the ball even after the project is complete.  The V&A is expected to attract 500,000 visitors in its first year of opening with 300,000 per year after that.  In order to maintain these levels, the quality and reputation of the exhibitions at the V&A must remain consistently high and be renewed regularly, thereby maintaining the reputation of the V&A.  This will require the co-operation and persistence of the main players - the universities, the local council, the V&A and the private and public sectors. A sustained, high influx of tourists will lift the City and create the 21st century metropolitan buzz that we all crave. More tourists means more leisure and retail outlets. More outlets means a better feel. A better feel means a more attractive place to live and work and so on. A virtuous arc of prosperity is created in the East of Scotland from Aberdeen in the north, through Dundee to Edinburgh and beyond.

It is clear that the V&A is an important catalyst. The proposed investment in off shore renewables by SSE and others in technology/fabrication at The Port is of equal importance.  That investment would bring with it new jobs to Dundee, not just in The Port itself, but also the low hanging fruit that grows with a supporting service industry. The requirement for factory and office would fit with the Waterfront initiative.

The Scottish Government must support and be seen to support the local bodies in promoting Dundee as a destination of prime first choice for business and leisure. Only then can the physical regeneration of Dundee be seen as a success.

That said, will this and the V&A be enough to entice the private sector to move in once the larger infrastructure works are complete? It is beyond conjecture that the regeneration will improve the aesthetics and infrastructure of Dundee. Will banks and developers be prepared to build speculatively and have space sit empty until tenants are found?  Can Tayside and the wider Scottish economy generate enough interest to enable the available space to be filled?  Can Dundee's physical connectivity to the outside world be improved? A concerted effort will be needed to attract private sector investment to allow the benefits of the current public capital expenditure to trickle down into the local economy. Businesses must be encouraged to locate to Dundee and the momentum generated by the investment prolonged. Intra-city relocation from other mature developments in Dundee, to the Waterfront, would only degrade those areas. This means that while Dundee's established businesses might relocate and help fill up office space, the areas of Dundee that they have relocated from, such as the existing technology parks, will suffer. 

The Dundee Waterfront redevelopment will create state-of-the-art infrastructure, and with this comes state-of-the-art opportunity.  Dundee needs to attract established, sustainable businesses, alongside start-ups and promote the retention of graduates of local universities.  This combination will plant the seeds for sustained economic growth. The Scottish Government must support and be seen to support the local bodies in promoting Dundee as a destination of prime first choice for business and leisure. Only then can the physical regeneration of Dundee be seen as a success.

By David Milne, Partner, MacRoberts LLP

Issue 6

PREVIOUS ISSUES

Looking for a previous issue? Use the menu below to select an issue.