John Norquist Speaks in Glasgow

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Rethink needed on Clyde regeneration, says US expert
Glasgow Herald
GERRY BRAIDEN March 13 2007
The vision for the regeneration of the Clyde will need to be re-worked if it's not to become an opportunity lost, a leading US expert in urban renewal has warned.

John Norquist, who led the dramatic regeneration of Milwaukee during his 16 years as mayor of the American city before heading an urban renewal agency, said the predominance of steel and glass structures along the riverside ran the risk of becoming "banal".

However, he said both US urban design experts and tourists would be amazed at how "shockingly beautiful" Glasgow city centre is.

Mr Norquist, president of the Congress for New Urbanism, was in Glasgow as part of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment's first public event in Scotland.

His work in Milwaukee, which included closing off a freeway and transforming it into a public walkway, is recognised internationally and taught around the world as an example for cities adapting to post-industrialism.

During his lecture at the Lighthouse, Scotland's design centre, he drew parallels between Milwaukee's experience and the challenges facing Glasgow, which he described as "possibly the most American of all UK cities" in its experiences with planning and development over the past 50 years.

However, he was less than impressed with the ongoing regeneration of the Clyde.

He said: "You only need to look at Detroit and all its booster projects. They get big ideas like casinos but it doesn't work.

"These schemes need to embrace the complexity of the city and if they really want the waterfront to come alive they need small cafes, bars and retail outlets to reflect the people and the culture.

"At the moment there's a lot of parking lots on the river's edge. Give Glaswegians something that they love along the river - like the tenements.

The former mayor also criticised the creation of a stand-alone financial services district, claiming "office ghetto zones" became ghost towns at night. A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "Our masterplans for the revitalisation and rebirth of new neighbourhoods along the rest of the Clyde will not happen overnight.

"Mr Norquist would do well to come back to Glasgow in five or 10 year's time to see for himself, the radically altered face of our city."

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And Public comments:

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Posted by: Jamie on 9:10am Wed 14 Mar 07
I moved back from Manchester another city which is arguablly ahead of Glasgow when it comes to regeneration and it's exactly how I dont want to see Glasgow become. Ghetto'd communities with shiny glass and steel exteriors and nothing contributing to life on street level. New roadways and minimal priority given to paving and absurd and confusing cycle paths that are ignored by drivers and cyclists alike.

The waterfront is a disjointed and non-coherent mixture of individual projects vying for attention but in the end looking like a greyed out Costa del Clyde. I moved to Finnieston to watch the regeneration of my home city and would like to see more than car parks and grey boxes appearing along the waters edge.

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Posted by: Jamie Black, Erskine on 12:46pm Wed 14 Mar 07
Fully agree with Mr Norquist, i have had the same thoughts as him all along. there is no consistency in the development. At Yorkhill Quay for example, there were some old warehouses which would have made an excellent areas for social events, complimenting the SECC/Tall Ship/nearby Partick, but instead, they are building flats and a fly over. Each project is individual, and not linked. Not good.
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Posted by: Brian Blessed, Glasgow on 2:22pm Wed 14 Mar 07
I suspect in 10 - 15 years time our American friend will be saying "I told you so". Unsustainable prices for cheaply-built and hastily erected houses right next to a seldom-dredged river appears to be a urban renewal disaster waiting to happen. When the economy takes a downward spiral and these 'executive penthouses' are turned into housing benefit funded multi-stories, we'll see the same mistakes we made in the 50s and 60s with suburban schemes develop. Exactly how many pubs and shops are at Glasgow Harbour?
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Posted by: Kenny on 11:38pm Wed 14 Mar 07
Real regeneration would involve building communities and ensuring connectivity with the rest of the city, this they have failed to do. What we have instead is quickly thrown up luxury flats of dubious quality. Clydeside regeneration is in danger of becoming a hugely missed opportunity due to the short-sightedness of numpty councillors in Glasgow.

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