Marischal Square: is it just a money raiser?

So Marischal Square is now just a project we have to accept to raise money for the city. That appears to be the message from reports of yesterday’s budget meeting at Aberdeen Town House.

When the new council administration swept into power more than two years ago, they wasted no time in taking the axe to the City Garden project. You may remember the way the new council killed it off was vote for an alternative proposal. There was a promise of ‘something better’ for Aberdeen.

Marischal Square

Since then many of us have been trying to identify the alternative project or the ‘something better’. Not surprisingly when St Nicholas House was demolished and plans were announced for Marischal Square, we assumed this might be part of this grand plan.

I envisaged this new civic square to be something like the civic square many of us had seen eight years ago in the Bon Accord Masterplan of 2006.

As you can see from the Masterplan documentation the council proudly demonstrated that the new civic square would be larger than Castlegate (there’s a nice graphic showing the footprint of the Castlegate within the new civic square).

There were alarm bells when the first drawings came out. It appeared that the much hated St Nicholas House was to be replaced by a wall of five-storey glass, steel and concrete buildings, even higher than the wing of St Nicholas House that ran opposite Marischal College.

It was two to three storeys at that point, the new Marischal Square buildings are to be five storey, making Marischal College more enclosed and much darker when the sun is low in the west.

The nod to the ambitions for a square, were some raised plant beds with landscaping and pedestrianisation of Broad Street. Fast forward to 2015 and the square appears to have completely vanished from the latest plans – no planters, no pedestrianisation, just a street like it is at the moment!

How is that ‘something better’?

Faced with a growing revolt from the citizens of Aberdeen as they express their anger and frustration, the council has tried various tactics to win the public over.

First we were told it would cost the city more than £100 million to pull the plug on the development. Then we were told that it would create millions of pounds of new business and thousands of jobs for the city.

Now we are told that we need to accept this development because we need the money.

The council’s colleagues in Dundee must be looking at each other in amazement.

By presenting an exciting vision for their city they have secured over £1 billion of funding for their ambitious development plans. No need to accept second rate plans to balance the books there.

Our council keep complaining at lack of investment in Aberdeen. Surely Dundee should provide the clue.

Governments and other funding bodies don’t invest in the mundane. They invest in visionary plans that transform and regenerate.

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