An emergency summit has been called on the future of Union Street “before it’s too late” to stop decline.
The landmark intervention comes as planners map out their long-term vision for the Granite Mile.
Once a bustling main shopping street, the diminished Union Street has been central to regeneration efforts for years.
Large-scale projects, like the £30m Union Terrace Gardens revamp and planned £50m Aberdeen market, are aimed at bringing people back to the city centre.
But business chiefs are calling for short-term, immediate action to attract traders in the meantime.
Without it, they fear the multi-million-pound projects could come “too late” as high street trade struggles nationwide.
Union Street summit: It could soon be ‘almost impossible’ to attract businesses
Aberdeen Inspired chief executive Adrian Watson said they showed “promising potential” which could bring major improvement.
However, the business improvement district (Bid) boss warned: “There is a growing concern that if we don’t act now, it will become almost impossible to attract any organisations to fill the growing number of vacant units that would revitalise the city centre’s main artery.”
And so, his company and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) have called next month’s summit to find answers.
Mr Watson added: “We have spoken to retailers, publicans, restauranteurs, other businesses, partner agencies, visitors and local residents who are becoming increasingly concerned about the detrimental impact the demise of our main street is having on civic pride and the local economy.
“We need to think more laterally and creatively to come up with solutions that quickly improve the look and feel of our main high street before it’s too late.
“Our main thoroughfare and wider city centre has so much potential, but it will need a collaborative focus and of course positive action in the here and now to realise this.”
What will the Union Street summit achieve?
Panel sessions – featuring commercial property agents, developers and traders – will discuss challenges facing Union Street and look for solutions.
Before that, a keynote address will set out what the modern high street needs in order to be economically viable.
The Union Street summit is an unprecedented development in the story of the continual decline of Aberdeen’s main road.
Paid-up business improvement district (Bid) levy payers are free to attend the event.
It will be held on Wednesday November 9 at the Douglas Hotel on Market Street.
And after the expert input, attendees will be tasked with coming up with “urgently required” fresh ideas.
Updates promised on big ideas for Aberdeen… potentially including the long-trailed cable car
AGCC launched a volunteer initiative, Vanguard, in 2017 with the aim of conceiving a ‘renaissance vision’.
Community-minded volunteers have offered their knowledge and expertise.
It has boosted efforts to promote Aberdeen as a life sciences hub.
Simple steps, such as improving business listings on Google maps, were brought forward.
More attention-grabbing plans include creation of new green spaces and the long-running proposals for a cable car linking Union Street with the seafront.
AGCC chief executive Russell Borthwick promised an update on some of those projects at the Union Street summit.
He added: “The important thing is looking forward.
“We have a large group of willing volunteers who are raring to go and a number of initiatives under discussion.
“I’m confident that after the summit they’ll be ready to get things moving. Time really is of the essence.”
Aberdeen City Council are significant Bid levy payers, given the local authority’s large city centre property portfolio.
Political leaders committed to working with public and private sector partners – including Aberdeen Inspired – to attract investment in the city centre.
Co-leaders Alex Nicoll and Ian Yuill said they hoped more residents, businesses and visitors would have their say on the latest proposals for the area.