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Bob Keiller, Chairman of Our Union Street updates us on the progress so far...

One of the clearest bits of feedback we received from you when we set-up Our Union Street was that you were fed-up of seeing empty shops looking shabby and unloved.

The core mission of Our Union Street is to fill those units with new occupiers – and there has been some good progress on that front, which I will touch upon later in this update.

However, in the meantime, our volunteers have been working to tidy up some of the vacant units to help make them more attractive to incoming tenants.

On Sunday (March 17), our volunteers completed their first unit tidy-up at 164 Union Street and I am sure you will agree they have made a huge difference.

Before after unit

They sanded and painted the frontage - and, with the help of Repro Overflow, erected a new temporary sign that was designed by Amy and Joe, two RGU Architectural graduates. The boards you see on the right will soon be turned into something interesting, which we will share with you in our next update.

They were among over 50 people out in force at the weekend, taking advantage of the spring sunshine to tidy up our city centre.

Before after unit volunteers

We had people in the St Nicholas Churchyard removing weeds and leaves, a team in Union Terrace Gardens litter picking, weeding and sweeping, and a team on Union Street, cleaning the windows as well as cleaning all the street furniture and painting over graffiti.

All great examples of how people power can help change the fortunes of the Granite Mile.

Street Union March

As I mentioned, significant progress is being made on repopulating Union Street with shops, restaurants and cafes.

More than 60 businesses have registered an interest in setting-up on Union Street thanks to a joint-effort between ourselves, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

As we entered 2023, there were 47 vacant units on the street. However, a major collaborative effort has turned the tide, and today the number of vacant shops has fallen to 37, with the number vacant and available to rent having fallen below 30.

The street now boasts some of the most generous incentives in the UK – with grants to fit-out units and up to two years rent and rates free where the premises has been empty for more than five years, subject to landlord support.

Tag Heuer Union Street

Since launching last summer, Aberdeen City Council’s Empty Shops Grant Scheme has attracted 65 expressions of interest.

The scheme offers grants of up to £35,000 where the money is match-funded by new tenants or landlords, and is designed to bring empty unit back into use.

The £500,000 fund was supposed to be spent over two years but has been such a success that the council has agreed to add another £500,000 to the scheme and extend it to 2026.

Read more on this here.

To date, the £140,000 of public money which has been spent to date has leveraged in £1million of private investment.

Since the start of 2024, nine further applications have been moved forward, which will bring the total number of grants awarded to £455,000.

Going forward, it is proposed that the scheme be extended to include business equipment where it is specific and integral to the new business operations, and costs for basement and first floor works will also be eligible if it helps bring a ground floor back into use.

There is lots still to do, but it is pleasing to see progress being made.

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