The City Square
proposal has been described, with some justification, as the most ambitious project for Aberdeen since the vision in 1799 to bridge the Denburn Valley with the viaduct that we now know as Union Street.
The idea of raising Union Terrace Gardens to street level is not new. It was first mooted in the 1980s. The plans were dusted off in the 1990s and got as far as incorporating the foundations for the project into the Denburn dual carriageway.
Regrettably, the way the project has been relaunched has pitched it into controversy. This has been fuelled by Peacock Visual Arts, who had approved plans for a new arts centre in the existing Union Terrace Gardens. The City Square
project incorporates a proposed visual arts centre in its plans, but this has failed to satisfy Peacock who have worked so hard over the years to bring their plans to this stage.
The result has been a most unfortunate ‘ping-pong’ war of words between the supporters of the Peacock plans and proponents of City Square.
As someone who wants the best for Aberdeen, I am naturally drawn to what I see as the greater benefits of City Square (why was it not named Union Park?). But, I am also concerned about the need to accommodate Peacock.
What excites me about City Square
is its potential to improve our city centre in so many ways.
Not only can it provide five acres of gardens, public space, performance areas and street art on an accessible level (literally and metaphorically!), but I see enormous benefits at concourse level. This level, flooded we are assured with daylight, would incorporate the arts centre at the north-west corner. There it would be linked below street level to His Majesty’s Theatre and the Art Gallery, creating a real all-weather cultural complex.
The concourse level (contrary to popular mythology) is not earmarked for shops. Instead ideas centre on museums and civic activities. It would be nice to think this would finally give us the home for the energy centre
that has been so long desired. It would also be a great location for a display dedicated to the history of the granite industry.
With the open gardens and squares on the top and the concourse level below, this is right for Aberdeen’s climate. Enjoy the outdoors on the good days, stay covered and warm in the winter!
The third huge benefit of the City Square is that it could provide the desperately needed pedestrian link between Aberdeen Station and Union Square, under Union Bridge, to the city centre.
Imagine how much more welcoming it would be for those arriving by rail in future. You step on moving walkways and escalators at the station that will whisk you straight into the concourse level of City Square. You are then straight into the new dramatic heart of the City of Aberdeen!City Square would create a new city centre park over the unsightly railway and dual carriageway.
Opportunities like this do not come around often. Sir Ian Wood has pledged £50 million of his own money to bring this project to reality.
ACSEF are confident that, building on his substantial investment, the remaining funding can be consolidated (notably without burdening the council’s stretched financial resources).
One thing is certain. If Aberdeen doesn’t apply for central funding it will simply go on other flagship regeneration projects elsewhere in Scotland.
My big fear is that apathy could win the day. For too long Aberdeen has been strong on talk and poor on delivery. If we are to shake that habit, we need everyone to get motivated enough to participate. You only have until March 5, to have your voice heard in the public consultation.
It couldn’t be easier to have your say. Take a few minutes to: