Plans for a five-storey office block, 16 flats and four retail outlets have been met with a mainly positive reaction by members of the Dundee community.
As reported on Monday, property development company Crucible (Dundee) Ltd has lodged an application for an office, residential and retail project across two buildings on land at Greenmarket, at the corner of Marketgait in Dundee.
The land, Dundee West Mineral Yard South, lies to the rear of the well-known former record store, Groucho’s.
‘Key national employer’
The application by Savills, on behalf of Crucible, would see an office block over five storeys, constructed for a “key national employer”.
The development will also include 16 apartments, as well as four retail units, according to plans submitted to Dundee City Council.
The applicants say the completed development would create up to 900 jobs.
She said: “I think it’s always positive when we see key investment being made by the private sector, and bringing a significant number of people to work in the city centre.
‘More people living close to the city centre’
“Particularly when we’ve had the last year of a really mixed picture of people not really moving about the city centre.
“Businesses need a lot of people to be working and living in the city centre and I think also we’re needing to see more development where there are more people going to be living close to the city centre.
“It’s good to see a long-term commitment in the city, particularly when some of the big national companies are changing.”
‘Future of empty buildings’
Ms Henderson noted that while there were vacant buildings in the city, some may not be suitable for the as-yet-unnamed national employer said to be moving into the proposed Greenmarket offices.
She said: “We have got a bit of an issue with some of the age of the developments in the city centre, so clearly if there’s vacant property that a large investor thinks is not going to be suitable, and then they want to develop, then I also think we’ve got to consider what the future is for some of these empty buildings.”
The application states: “The proposed development will include office accommodation and an element of either retail and/or restaurant/café at ground floor level in the four separate units proposed.”
The flats would comprise of 15 two-bedroom properties with a single one-bedroom home also part of the plans.
The apartments would be built over four levels, planners said.
While they would be constructed as separate buildings, the frontage of the two buildings would be linked, planners say.
Various plans never transpired
Planning permission on the land has been granted previously, including in February 2000 for the erection of a 103 bedroom hotel with associated bar, lounge and car parking and the provision of separate public house.
As recently as 2006, a 114-bedroom hotel, office space and a bar was also given the green light by planners.
Jimmy Black, a former city councillor for 10 years who served as the local authority’s housing convener, welcomed the construction of properties so close to the city centre.
‘Needing developed for some time’
Mr Black, who is now a committee member for Angus Housing Association, said: “That site has been needing to be developed for a long time, and there have been various plans for hotels, and they’ve never transpired.
“That part of town has really improved over the last few years, after a period where it was a bit like a demolition zone. But there is still that area there that needs to be developed. But, it has to be the right development.
“Housing in the city centre, I think is crucial. It’s good to get more people back into the city centre.
“There needs to be a population in the centre to use the businesses, to use the shops.
“At night, the city centre is quiet, particularly on weekday nights. The more people that are living in the city centre the more chances there are for shops and businesses and a lively town centre.
‘A lively city centre’
“So I’m very much in favour of more city centre housing. It sounds like the flats are of a good size, for younger people who are maybe starting out.
“That’s good because they are the sort of folk who do well in the city centre. They might move out from the centre when they’re older, to houses with gardens and so on, but flats in the city centre for people at the start of their adult lives, and also people nearer the end of their lives, are great.
“So, the principle of developing that site, the principle of putting housing on it, is great. Let’s bring people back in and have a lively city centre.”
West End Community Council chairman Russell Pepper said while he wasn’t fully familiar with the exact details of the plans, he said he was in favour of an application if it was for the benefit of Dundee.
‘If it works for the area’
Six applications dating as far back as 2000 had proposed to build on the land, including one which planned a 104-room hotel, offices, and a separate public bar.
Mr Pepper said: “Generally, if an area has lain empty for so long, and if it is a good development; it’s of a high quality, and it’s got affordable housing, it’s done well and sensitively and works for the area, then yeah, absolutely I’m in favour.
“I can’t comment too much on the plans but it’s obviously been empty for a very long time.
“It’s just sat as a surface car park, which isn’t very inspiring to anybody. It’s right next to the city centre so it could be quite positive, depending on what’s in there in the end.
“It’s the city centre, right next to the train station, a multi-storey car park opposite, it’s on the cycle network almost as well.
“So yeah, it would be a very good location for whoever moves in there.”
Publican John Justice, who owns Pillars in Crichton Street, said more housing close to his pub was to be welcomed.
Vacant for more than 20 years
He said: “[Building projects at the site] have been talked about for around 20 years. I remember there was a proposal to put a hotel on it.
“I would have thought that plans like these could only be welcomed. There’s a lot of land down there, and it’s been vacant for two decades.
“Personally, I can’t see why you would need any more retail units or offices, because there’s so many in Dundee. But more accommodation and make it more affordable accommodation, definitely.
“There’s no demand even in the city centre now, after lockdown, for retail units. Why have retail units and office units? They’re empty all over the place.
‘Pie in the sky’
“It does seem a bit ‘pie in the sky’ to speak about more retail units and offices, after this pandemic, when there’s probably going to be lots of empty offices and retail units, I would think. I would make it all accommodation.
“The Pillars is, from Crichton Street to that site, probably about 400 metres. So we would welcome housing there, definitely.”
The council’s planning committee is due to make a decision on the application in August.