The multi-million pound expansion of the Union Square
shopping centre in Aberdeen has raised renewed concerns for the future of Aberdeen’s Union Street, the maginificent 19th century thoroughfare that brought Aberdeen its fame as the “Granite City”.
Union Street was a magnificent boulevard and an engineering marvel when it was constructed in the early 19th century.
These days people tend to take Union Street for granted. They forget that, under them is a viaduct of granite arches up to 30 feet off the ground. Union Bridge is the largest single span granite arch in the world.
In the 19th century people flocked to Union Street to parade its granite magnificence in their best finery.
The pioneer photographer George Washington Wilson has a famous photo of women in crinoline dresses and men in straw boaters, walking the granite mile with a sign “Granite City Souvenirs” on a shop front behind.
Why do we not proudly promote that heritage. For goodness sake, why is there no Union Street website?
So, what can be done to save Union Street from its downward spiral as shops relocate to malls?
One opportunity would be to provide tour bus parking as close as possible to Union Street. This was proposed for the lower level of the ill-fated City Park development in Union Terrace.
Imagine how Union Street could be a draw for bus tours if nearby parking was established. Promote the Victorian heritage of the Granite Mile and the engineering feat that created it and the passengers would be eager to take the short walk to see it for themselves.
If twenty tour buses could be hosted on a summer day, that would bring around 800 extra people to Union Street. That’s 800 additional potential customers for the shops, restaurants and cafes in and around Union Street.
While local shoppers might still tend to gravitate to the big malls like Union Square, Bon Accord St Nicholas and the Trinity Centre. Tour bus passengers don’t come to a destination to see more Primark, McDonalds and KFC. They want something different.
That creates an opportunity for unique local shops, cafes and restaurants.