Byres Road might be the heart of the West End and a favourite destination for many of us on campus, but local traders are worried it’s losing some of its unique appeal. With high rates and rents forcing some small businesses to look elsewhere, business owners on the street are now supporting proposals to turn Byres Road into a Business Improvement District (BID).
Residents and traders have complained that the area looks run-down; two years ago, local paper the Evening Times reported concerns about empty retail units, a lack of parking facilities, and the alarmingly high turnover rate of businesses on the street, especially at the Dumbarton Road end. Business owners have added to this their worry that shoppers are deserting the area in favour of online shopping and out-of-town developments like Silverburn.
If the area becomes a BID, traders will contribute to a common fund that will be used to regenerate the street. Suggestions for how to improve Byres Road include free wi-fi, improved parking and creating shelters for the large trade rubbish bins that currently stand on pavements. Perhaps most crucial, is the proposal to offer temporary rent relief for new businesses. It is hoped that these will help new businesses find their feet in an area where business rent and rates are notoriously high.
These ideas seem to be popular, with 93% of voters on a STV Glasgow poll agreeing that Byres Road “should have an overhaul”. There was also positive feedback on social media. But some Glaswegians have pointed out the success of Byres Road when compared to other main streets throughout the city, such as the East End’s Gallowgate and Duke Street or Victoria Road in the South Side. One commenter on Facebook suggested that the traders involved “might want to take a 5 minute walk up Maryhill Road”, with others accusing them of “living in a bubble”.
Meanwhile, areas such as Finnieston seem to be drawing people away from Byres Road. Independent shops and cafes are thriving along Argyle Street, as well as popular bars and restaurants, and the Riverside Museum and Kelvingrove continue to attract both local residents and visitors to the area. Perhaps it’s time for Byres Road to pass on its West End crown.
[Lauren Cummings – @__laurenC]