Situated on the north bank of the River Tay in Scotland, the city of Dundee has probably one of the most attractive urban locations in the UK. In 2014, UNESCO declared Dundee the first City of Design and within the near future, the V&A Museum of Design and Innovation will open on the waterfront. The new museum is expected to attract half a million visitors as well as act as a catalyst for the further cultural and business development of the city.
But yet if you venture beyond the central core of the city, the urban landscape is dominated by the industrial past. Industrial growth in the 19th century was considerable which means that the aftermath in the present day is an equally considerable area of dour abandoned textile mills and a sea of dereliction. Some of the better examples of old mills and factories have been renovated into other uses. But the cheap and fast expansion of the Victorian industrialists leave a townscape heritage that is uninspiring and culturally impoverished.
Catalysts of Change
Just as the massive expansion of Dundee in the 19th century was due to a mixture of beneficial factors, so too is the future of the city dependent on a cocktail of catalysts. The new V&A Museum is just one of the catalysts. Other factors are obvious - other less so, but they can be effective in giving Dundee uniqueness in Scotland and Europe.
The time is right for a new considered type of planning and urban lifestyle quality which has hitherto not been evident in Dundee. In place of the desolate wastelands of inner Dundee, new housing can be financed with a mix of owner occupier and affordable housing. A large proportion of the mature population of Angus hinterland and the suburbs will prefer inner city lifestyles - as is seen clearly in the rest of western Europe.
Retaining graduates is a city planning goal which is often interpreted as being able to offer employment. An overlooked aspect is that graduates are also seeking place to live which is commensurate with their education. The European pattern for employment growth shows that new jobs are created by small companies and start-ups. The key is availability of seed capital, initial investment of venture capital will create jobs at graduate level.
Dundee is at new crossroads - probably more so than any other time in the last century. An opportunity exists at this time for Dundee to take a new place in Scotland, the UK and indeed in Europe. It needs thought, innovation and planning.