A £100,000 deep-clean of Union Street will give city authorities a “blank canvas” for the future, business owners have claimed.
Earlier this week Aberdeen City Council’s city growth and resources committee approved the intensive project, which is due to get under way in the coming days.
Pavements will be power-washed, graffiti and posters removed and damaged signs repaired in an effort to spruce up the much-maligned Granite Mile.
Railings and fences will be painted, vegetation cleared and drains and gutters cleaned out as part of the deep-clean, which is expected to take between six and eight weeks.
Alongside the clean-up a publicity campaign will be launched, with banners aimed at attracting visitors to the city’s museums, art gallery and events such as the final stage of the Tour of Britain, which will be held in Aberdeen next month.
Some members of the public questioned whether the project would make much difference to Union Street, which is facing issues including a large number of empty units.
However, businesses in the area have reacted positively to the news of the clean-up, with claims it could be the first step towards revitalising the beleaguered city centre.
‘Real opportunity’ for city
“There is a real opportunity here and the council know that,” said Bob Smith, the founder of Aberdeen Vinyl Records.
“We have a real chance to get it right and to make a new first impression on people who are either coming here for the first time, or are visiting for the first time in a while.
“Over the next couple of years there is going to be an increase in the amount of tourism and we want those people to be encouraged to come back.
“If they make the pedestrianisation of this part of Union Street permanent, and look after it, it is a blank canvas for making more improvements.”
‘More action’ needed for city centre
Joe Newman of Vaping101 added he is “all for” the deep-clean.
However, he admitted his belief that more would need to be done to breathe life back into Union Street.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be enough to bring much business back to the street on its own though.
“There needs to be a solution to filling the closed and vacant shops. It will take more action on top of cleaning it up to do that.
“No owner wants to drop their rent but something severe is going to have to happen.
“However, the deep-clean is a good place to start.”
Regular maintenance needed
John Michie, a partner at pharmacy group Charles Michie’s, said the project would need to become a regular occurrence to make a difference.
“The problem is Covid has reduced the frequency with which the council can get staff out onto the street,” he said.
“If this is just a one-time thing it’s not going to work. We need to see regular maintenance of the city centre.”
Adrian Watson, the chief executive of business improvement district Aberdeen Inspired, said the project represented part of a “clear strategy” for the regeneration of the city which would “ultimately meet the needs and aspirations of our communities for many years to come”.
“There is still much to be positive about and this deep clean is just one small piece of the regeneration journey to help Union Street and he city centre recover and regenerate and regain its rightfully position as the beating heart of our city centre,” he added.
City ‘needs a good spruce-up’
Ryan Houghton, the convener of the city growth and resources committee, said the council had to “take responsibility” for the appearance of the city centre.
The Conservative group leader said the authority’s focus was on giving the city a “spruce-up” ahead of a decision later this month on the city centre masterplan, which will set out the council’s long-term priorities for £150 million of investment.
“There is a sense that the place needs a good spruce-up,” Mr Houghton said.
“Bins are looking tired and old, some of the drains and gullies need cleaned out and railings need repainted to get some of the rust stains off. I think that’s what people want to see.
“Everyone takes great pride in their city – we don’t have control over business rates or rents but we do have control over how our city centre looks and we have to take responsibility for that.
“I appreciate £100,000 will only go so far, and I know people are very passionate about keeping this as a regular thing and trying to keep the city centre the way they expect it to be,” he added.
“That’s why in a couple of weeks’ time we are going to have a decision to make on £150 million of investment in the city centre and the beachfront as well.”