Urban Union was formed to help meet Scotland’s growing demand for affordable housing of the highest quality. A partnership between McTaggart Construction and Robertson Group, it works with local councils and housing associations to deliver large-scale regeneration projects across Scotland, as Neil McKay tells LABM.
In 2012 Urban Union began to work on the delivery of a £140m revitalisation of Laurieston in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. The project, which will deliver a total of four phases of housing over a nine-year period, will include over 1,000 mixed-tenure homes, community facilities, open space and recreation areas.
To ensure the successful delivery of this ambitious regeneration project, we employed a partnership approach, working closely with the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, New Gorbals Housing Association and Glasgow Housing Association. This collaborative approach facilitates the exchange of knowledge and skills between industry leaders, which has helped ensure the success of the project thus far.
Over the years, many parts of Glasgow have undergone rejuvenation. As the Gorbals has previously had a reputation for deprivation and poor housing, Laurieston was identified as a key Transformational Regeneration Area. The development work to date has helped to transform the community and reconnect it with surrounding neighbourhoods — changing perceptions and ultimately improving the lives of local residents.
During the 1960s and 1970s, many residents of the demolished tenements in the Gorbals area were rehomed in high rises. This negatively impacted community living and resulted in an increase of anti-social behaviour, tainting the social fabric of Laurieston. Our ongoing development at Laurieston aims to knit this part of the city to surrounding areas by integrating communities. In undertaking this task the objective was clear: transform perceptions by regenerating Laurieston, while providing a full range of high quality affordable homes.
To meet this objective, we took on a clear design approach shaped by a comprehensive understanding of the financial, cultural, social and environmental factors of delivering the project. Laurieston is more than just regeneration of bricks and mortar; it is the regeneration of a community with a team that is committed to ensuring a coherent, sustainable approach focused on long-term projects that support growth and community living.
From the outset of the development, local representatives were chosen to contribute to the overall masterplan. Urban Union has continuously consulted this group, with a public consultation on the final masterplan held locally and received very positively.
Breathing new life into the community with a range of high-quality, affordable homes, we have provided a range of property choices suitable for the entire community, house types include a mix of terraced homes, townhouses and apartments so there is something to suit every budget.
The properties have been developed to evoke the traditional character and grid pattern of Glasgow tenement districts. Clever use of communal spaces encourage community living and prevent anti-social behaviour. High industry standards were a key part of the design commitment, with all new homes on the development achieving an ‘EcoHomes’ rating of ‘Very Good’, meeting with ‘Secured by Design’ criteria.
To ensure the development’s seamless integration into the area, the homes at the development have been built close to existing infrastructure, giving residents easy access to great local schools as well as amenities and bars, cafes, shops and restaurants.
As well as providing high quality homes and a holistic approach to regeneration, at Urban Union we strive to deliver more than just housing. We are committed to the developments we operate and we are passionate about delivering tangible benefits to the local community that will continue long after the regeneration is complete.
From its inception, Laurieston Living has created genuine opportunities for locals, including educational opportunities in the construction industry for young people. We have also partnered with local schools in Glasgow to introduce a wider employability programme, providing a path to a better future with greater opportunities for those moving from school to further education.
Urban Union has also demonstrated a firm commitment in fostering creativity within the community through establishing a significant ‘Arts and Living Strategy at Laurieston Living. Working with WAVEparticle, which is based just a stone’s throw from Laurieston, we have created a five-year arts strategy for the area with the ambition of exploring and connecting it to the rich history of Laurieston.
A bright future
Weaving together the historic fabric of the area with modern living standards, the project is adding to the area’s rich and fascinating history. Providing a range of attractive property styles and affordable housing options, the future of the development looks bright, promoting a sense of community and ownership amongst tenants.
Further progress is being made, with work well underway on the second phase of Laurieston Living. In Phase 2 a total of 173 private for sale homes will be built, with the new development expected to complete by early 2021 and with the first residents already in place.
The design for Phase 3 of the development is also well underway, with an intention to submit for Planning Approval before the end of the year. Morale in the community is high, and residents look to the future with positivity and excitement.
Neil McKay is Managing Director at Urban Union