Waterfront development “rammy” a sign of people’s engagement with project, claims city development convener

© DC Thomson
The view of the V&A from the top of Union Street has become one of the city's favourites. But it will be obscured when Site 6 (highlighted in red) is developed into a five-storey office block.

Dundee’s city development convener says a row over plans for a £15.5 million office development on the waterfront show how the V&A has captured people’s imaginations.

Councillors will be asked to approve the appointment of a contractor to build the five-storey development on a site adjacent to the V&A on Monday.

The development will include offices, ground floor commercial units and dedicated parking.

© Dundee Waterfront
The proposed five-storey office block across from the V&A.

The proposal provoked an online row with dozens of Dundonians posting comments urging the council to rethink the scheme, which will obstruct views of the waterfront and V&A.

Some offered alternative suggestions for the site, including a new bus station and even a crazy golf course. An online petition against the plans, which were approved by councillors in June, has also been set up.

But city development convener Lynne Short defended the proposal, saying it would help connect the waterfront with the city centre.

She said: “The fact people are having a rammy about this on Facebook shows the V&A has captured the imaginations of people in Dundee – it’s not something that would have happened two years ago.

Councillors urged to protect V&A views as Waterfront plans take shape

“What we are bringing to committee on Monday is the first part of a two-part plan for Site 6 with office, retail, parking and commercial space. The other side of the site will have retail, a hotel and apartments.

“The whole point of the waterfront redevelopment is about connecting the river with the city and people. There has to be something else in the area, from both the architectural point of view and in terms of paying for the V&A and the railway station’s redevelopment.”

© DC Thomson
Another V&A view that will be obscured when Site 6 (skirted by the temporary grey screening) is developed.

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The SNP councillor said offices built by the Apex Hotel are now full and it is hoped the new development will attract more business – and jobs – to Dundee.

She added more public spaces, including an urban beach and amphitheatre, are being planned for other sites along the waterfront.

Graeme Hutton, professor of architecture and associate dean of learning and teaching at Dundee University, said it is important the V&A is not “isolated” from the rest of the city.

The award-winning architect said buildings around the V&A need to complement the Kengo Kuma-designed museum, rather than compete with it for attention.

He said: “What is more important is what is happening at ground level.

“People rarely look up above the ground floor so if there are cafes and speciality shops that will create a vibrant public space.

“Without that the V&A would be completely isolated like the Colosseum in Rome, which has nothing around it.”

Mr Hutton said he believes most people are unlikely to find the offices an eyesore.

He said: “These things are always in the eye of the beholder and everyone has their own opinion on what makes good architecture – there will always be differences.

“We’ve got some good examples — like Dundee City Council’s own headquarters — of fine examples of modern architecture and I think some of the projects down on the waterfront are taking their cues from that.”

Jack Searle, the vice-chairman of Dundee Civic Trust, said his only concerns were the height of the development and what happens if the offices are unoccupied for a significant period of time.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he said: “The whole exercise down there is about attracting development and jobs.

“It’s good that something is going there but I do have some concerns about scale  – the original design was only four storeys – and will they get enough businesses to full the offices. Some of those sites could be vacant for 20 years.”