The soon-to-be-closed John Lewis building, depleted Bon Accord Centre and the wider George Street area will be included in a multi-million-pound refresh of the Aberdeen city centre masterplan, it has been confirmed.
Councillors approved a £150 million spend on a refresh of the 25-year strategy last month, but the rhetoric focused on “reinventing” the beachfront.
Rubbished at the time as being “fag packet” plans, council officers have now confirmed the revised proposals will include Norco House – currently occupied by John Lewis – and the Bon Accord shopping precinct.
More detail will be laid out to councillors at a meeting of the city growth committee next month.
If approved, the masterplan review could progress over the summer.
Major department store chain John Lewis announced it would withdraw from its premises on George Street in Aberdeen.
Along with February’s announcement of the closure of Debenhams, the retail sector has been dealt blow after blow in recent months.
Bon Accord Centre bosses – also to be included in the rescue masterplan – now face the challenge of filling more than 20 empty units out of a total of 45.
The dire situation led to The Press And Journal and Evening Express launching the Save Our Shops campaign.
More than 25,000 people have signed a petition urging John Lewis chiefs to reverse the decision.
New hope for George Street, despite the turmoil, was welcomed by local councillor Michael Hutchison.
The SNP member had pushed for the southern end of George Street – including the area earmarked for the Bon Accord’s planned expansion – to be included in the masterplan.
He said the loss of John Lewis “strengthened the case significantly”.
“I’m delighted that, after years of calling for a masterplan for the George Street area, we’re finally going to get that,” he said.
“There is a lot of potential and hidden gems in this area that I hope we can make the most of for our city.
“George Street is a wonderful and unique part of our city centre but it unfortunately barely featured in the original city centre masterplan.
“George Street is part of our city centre and it must not be left behind when plans for the city centre come forward.
“After a year that’s seen John Lewis close and the Bon Accord expansion abandoned, this masterplan should provide the basis for some well-needed hope and regeneration for the area.”
The refreshed masterplan budget meeting might also include a new stadium for Aberdeen Football Club.
Intended to keep the Dons in the city instead of their intended move to Kingsford on the outskirts, it could be backed with public money.
The revamp of the seafront could also include a replacement for the Beach Leisure Centre and refurbishment of the Beach Ballroom.
Conservative council co-leader, Douglas Lumsden, who convenes the city growth committee and is standing for election to Holyrood, said: “It’s good to see the SNP finally getting on board with plans to take the city forward, however it is disappointing that it has taken the closure of John Lewis and the demise of our city centre for them suddenly to spring into action.
“Councillor Hutchison and his SNP group should listen to the Federation of Small Businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen Journals and this administration and work with us all to ensure that the Scottish Government finally wakes up to the mess it has created by its lack of funding to the city council over the last 14 years.
“The SNP have brought nothing to the council regarding any concerns they have for George Street and its surrounding areas.
“Councillor Hutchison and the SNP group had an opportunity at the budget meeting in March to put money on the table to invest in George Street and our city centre however they choose to offer up no finances preferring instead to focus on managing decline.”