Rejuvenating the heart of our city

This month saw the launch of Operation Union Street Rejuvenation, the first phase of a regeneration project being brought forward under the City Centre Masterplan. Early measures have included a deep clean of Union Street and the formation of a new Council taskforce to clean, fix and paint any problems which arise over the coming years.

The Council is spending more than £1 million over the next nine months and plans include upgrading street furniture and a professional clean of St Nicholas Kirkyard façade. The Masterplan is all about “Transforming Our City Centre” – creating a safer, cleaner, better-connected, more dynamic city centre, while enhancing our unique heritage.

Operation Union Street Rejuvenation is being led with Aberdeen Inspired, operator of the Business Improvement District, and again that reflects a wider ambition, namely partnership working. We’ve reached out to those who own or occupy buildings on Union Street and offered to work with them in trying to preserve and improve properties.

Really, this is a starting point for Union Street. In the longer term the Masterplan envisages pedestrian priority to the east. Our world is changing fast and with it the character of cities. Over the next 25 years more people may come to call Union Street home.

The exciting part about the Masterplan is that it is everyone’s to shape and make real. We are at a key juncture in the city’s history and mustn’t allow ourselves to become bystanders in what happens next.

When construction of Union Street started in 1801, Aberdeen was more like the medieval settlement. Surveyor Charles Abercrombie reported to town councillors that the roads were “crooked, narrow, tortuous and hilly” complaining that, “It is with great difficulty that a stranger can find his way in or out of Aberdeen”.

Move forward to the present day and good access – by car, bus, bicycle, train and foot – and movement within the city centre are key Masterplan goals. However, delivering game-changing improvements requires boldness and nerve. It took four years to complete Union Street. The job involved building a viaduct over the Denburn Valley, an achievement regarded as one of the grandest engineering feats of its time.

Aberdeen has continued to prosper through daring and ingenuity, not least in the North Sea.

The City Centre Masterplan gives us a blueprint from which to replicate the spectacular success of previous generations in the very heart of Aberdeen. Let’s embrace it.