Dundee city centre worries me, especially as it is soon to suffer two heavy blows.
I walked along the Murraygate and High Street on Tuesday, from the Wellgate to Overgate Centres, and counted a dozen boarded up shops and at least one “closing soon” sign.
Next year, Marks and Spencer, the town’s last department store, is moving out. Another set of plywood sheets in the Murraygate.
That’s one blow.
The next will come in May 2024 when the Dundee Low Emissions Zone bans several types of car from the city centre.
I’m not arguing against clean air but it must be accepted the LEZ will reduce footfall.
Drivers will drive to other places.
We are witnessing the slow death of a once proud and thriving place.
If the rate of decline remains consistent there will hardly be a shop to visit within the next decade.
Dundee city centre – a place where big ideas get off the ground?
I know there are many better-educated, more experienced, more involved retail professionals in the city than me.
I also know there isn’t an easy way to counter the effects of out-of-town retail parks or online shopping.
But an idea by the Women’s Business Station in the Wellgate is interesting.
That could be expanded. But it has to be big – really big – properly led and organised, and fully committed-to by the city’s leaders.
If you’re going to have a start-up business, start it in a Dundee shop – without being charged.
Indeed, the council could give you a couple of hundred quid a week and free electricity.
If you want to start a fashion brand, coffee grinding shop, sports shoe resale business – come to town.
If you’re holding a fund-raiser, have a bake sale in an empty retail unit over lunchtimes for a week.
Let there be indoor boot sales of a weekend.
We could showcase the arts and crafts of local people.
If you’ve started a band, come play in an empty Dundee store on a Saturday afternoon.
All of it for free.
Dundee must learn from other cities – and be prepared to take chances
Let’s be innovative.
Encourage bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cocktail-making classes, and adult ball pools, and have covered walkways between.
For any of this to happen, there would be huge hurdles to overcome.
There are multiple owners of the centre’s premises.
There would have to be deals struck with landlords, compromises made, money spent.
Established shops won’t be chuffed at competition which doesn’t pay rates or taxes.
I acknowledge all these ideas might be unworkable, naïve, or would cost a fortune.
Perhaps similar notions have been discussed and discarded.
But surely trying something is better than doing nothing?
These are my ideas, city councillors, what are yours?