Instruction for a Full Business Case for purchase of Aberdeen Market to help breathe new life into the city centre

Aberdeen City Council officers have been given an instruction to proceed with the purchase of the former Aberdeen Market and BHS to create a destination venue featuring international-style food and drink outlets as part of the city’s recovery from Covid-19.

The council’s city growth and resources committee members agreed an outline business case to be progressed to a full business case and considering all options to deliver the development including delivery with a development partner and operator.

The committee agreed to funding applications to support the wider project, for the council to undertake any necessary consultancy, design or implementation work, an instruction to proceed with the purchase of the property and thereafter enter into a contract to demolish the building either directly or with a development partner, and review a vision of the central section of Union Street including stakeholder consultation.

Aberdeen City Council city growth and resources committee convener Councillor Douglas Lumsden said: “The purchase and redevelopment of Aberdeen Market and former BHS retail unit combined with associated public realm works on Union Street and to the south would bring transformational change to the heart of the city centre.

“It is an exciting opportunity to breathe new life into our city centre and would also help our hospitality industry which has suffered in the last 13 months due to the restrictions caused by Covid-19.

“I welcome the report to committee and also the positive reaction the proposed redevelopment of The Market has had with the public, the business sector, and other key stakeholders in the city.”

The report said the current owners of Aberdeen Market are seeking to sell the building and associated properties on Union Street and Market Street. The former BHS building has been vacant for approximately seven years and has planning consent for a major office development which has not proved to be deliverable.

The central section of Union Street and Aberdeen Market are critical components in the “Heart of the City” area of Intervention identified in the approved City Centre Masterplan from 2015, which has the key objective to reinstate the central role of Union Street in the life of the city, establishing stronger linkages north and south and creating a destination not just for shopping but for many city activities.

The report explained the Outline Business Case (OBC) said the development provides the opportunity to achieve several objectives including creating an ‘active’ frontage to Union Street, link with active travel and pedestrian priorities for the city centre, increase footfall and create of a new retail ‘destination’ for the city centre, occupation of vacant retail units, and provide resilient recovery from Covid-19.

The development would also create a pedestrian connectivity between Union Street and the bus and railway stations via The Green, and enliven Hadden Street and Market Street with urban realm improvements in and around The Green.

The proposal identified in the OBC is to develop the site with attractive market-style floorspace to create a destination venue with commercial marketplace elements promoting local produce and goods alongside continental style delicatessen, cafes and food outlets.

The design will feature a mixture of fixed units of various sizes alongside space for temporary and pop-up facilities which would allow for increased variety and be flexible to seasonal requirements. At this early stage of the design phase, a range of potential use options are being considered to complement the market floorspace. These options will be considered in the context of Aberdeen City Council’s strategic economic development objectives and will respond to identified need within the City Centre property market. This is also consistent with ‘Independent Aberdeen’ ambitions in the CCMP by creating space for local and regional businesses to grow and develop.

In addition to the interior elements, it is intended that the space around the redevelopment will be utilised to provide attractive outdoor spaces which enhance and integrate with proposed urban realm improvements. These exterior improvements will create an attractive link between the Green and the retail offer on Union Street, supporting increased accessibility, improved navigability.

The public realm improvements will include links and coordination with current proposals for the infrastructure and street scape works of Union Street (from Market Street to Bridge Street), with the Market Building acting as a focal point and exchange for people moving between districts.

The creation of a market style exchange at the Market Building location presents numerous opportunities for linking with local sectors and businesses to support growth. These linkages will highlight local and regional production and craft and create a new point of contact for interfacing with customers.

The 2021 Budget meeting on 10 March outlined a funding commitment totalling £150M from the General Fund Capital Programme over financial years 2021/22 to 2025/26 to ensure the Council transforms the city centre and beach area.

The OBC said the project would be carried out to enhance the city infrastructure for the benefit of its citizens and visitors, rather than for the purposes of commercial return. The council will seek to mitigate the cost of the project through applying for various funds and organisations where grant funding is available in line with the objectives of the project.

Costs for the Union Street central visioning work package are £50,000 to be met from the city centre workstream of the General Fund Capital Programme. Indicative costs to develop detailed design for this section of Union Street leading on from the visioning exercise, including detailed civils design, bridge assessment, landscape design and stakeholder engagement, are estimated to be £500,000. The estimated cost for implementing public realm and wayfinding improvements to the south is £1million.

The report to committee can be viewed at 210511 CGR - Aberdeen Market and Union Street.pdf (aberdeencity.gov.uk).