A NEW public square in the heart of one of Glasgow's most popular areas will form the centrepiece of a £1 billion plan to transform a former hospital site into a university learning hub.
A major extension to the University of Glasgow's Gilmourhill campus on the site of the old Western Infirmary has been given the green light, paving the way for work to begin in the spring.
The University says that plans will transform the 14-acre site into one of the largest education developments in Scotland and see the construction of world-class facilities ranging from a research and innovation hub to new buildings for, health, business, chemistry and the arts - complete with performing spaces.
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The proposals, which have now been approved in principle by Glasgow City Council, would also see new public routes and a central square linking to Byres Road, opening up commercial opportunities in the form of restaurants, bars and a hotel.
A second phase of work is scheduled to start in 2023 on a new engineering centre, an "innovation quarter" to engage with local industry and a building for research into chronic diseases.
An estimated 2,500 jobs would be created during the construction period, with the University promising that the development will bring significant community, economic, environmental and cultural benefits.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Anton Muscatelli, said: “We are delighted that Glasgow City Council has endorsed our ambitious plan which we believe will be a major economic driver for the city and for Scotland as well as underpin this university’s world-leading position.
“The decision to approve the masterplan is pivotal to allowing us to start this development."
The initial work is expected to cost £430m over the next five years on the first phase of the project, part of a wider £1bn investment in the campus which includes significant spending on refurbishing and improving the current buildings.
Prof Muscatelli added: " This will be one of the biggest educational infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history and is certainly the biggest development undertaken by this University since it moved to Gilmorehill 150 years ago.
“We are very aware that whilst we undertake this scale of construction that we must minimise disruption to both the University community and the West End and the University will work closely with community groups to ensure we respect those living and working in the area.”
The university moved from High Street to the Gilmorehill site in 1870 as part of plans to have a learning hub and hospital side by side, so the hospital could be used for clinical teaching and research.
A clause was signed stating that if the hospital, which opened in 1874, ever ceased to be a hospital, then the university could buy back the site.
A number of conditions are attached to the planning application, which the University has recognised and has pledged to adhere to
These include replacing trees, landscaping and the types of shops allowed on the site.
The first building to be built will be a new learning and teaching hub, which will link into the Boyd Orr building on University Avenue.
The initial plans attracted 340 objections from people living nearby, but these were overruled.