This article appeared in The Sunday Herald, November 2007.
Ardenlea Street, once the bustling hub of Glasgow’s Dalmarnock area with schools, shops, cinemas and churches, today looks like the disused set of a long-forgotten western. Broken doors swing and creak in the wind. Torn curtains flutter from dark empty rooms out of the only windows not boarded up with bricks.
This eerie old tenement row is to be demolished, along with those in several streets nearby, to make way for the Commonwealth Games athletes’ village and velodrome. The plan forms part of a grand vision for the isolated area – cut off even from Parkhead a mile or two away – to be the centre of an east end transformed.
The availability of land, the area’s location near the city centre and its long-standing deprivation made it an obvious choice for the housing complexes and commercial opportunities promised as the games’ legacy.
But Dalmarnock is not quite a ghost town awaiting rebirth. A single satellite dish at the bottom of Ardenlea Street indicates that life still exists. Margaret Jaconelli has been on her ground floor flat for 32 years, and though all her neighbours have been re-housed as part of the Clyde Gateway project, she has, thus far, refused to budge.
“I’m the last one left now,” says the 49-year-old proudly. “I want to stay in my own house as long as possible.
“Don’t get me wrong, the games will be a new beginning for the east end and it’s going to bring people back eventually, but it’s a real shame what’s happened here. It’s been allowed to become run down, but it was never a bad area. It was actually a cracking wee community.”
Around the corner in the cafe, post office and tiny row of shops on Springfield Road, people chatting about the games bid victory are keen to point out that Dalmarnock is still a cracking wee community. Although television cameras are panning across derelict ground now pencilled-in for green boulevards and water features, the area’s 20,000 residents are beginning to wonder where exactly they fit in with future plans.
“People are excited, but people are worried as well,” says 30-year-old Amanda Faulds. “They don’t know if they’re going to be shipped out when everything changes. You hear rumours like they’re going to pull this down, they’re going to pull that down’. Nobody knows yet because nobody’s told us anything. Even if it’s a bit run-down, it’s still a good wee community. We’ll be fighting to keep it together.”
Still a little dazed and bemused by Friday’s celebrations, no-one seems fully aware of the scale of change in the offing. Lifelong resident Jamie Greer, 51, doesn’t seem prepared for the international arenas, luxury apartments, bistros and bars heading his way in the next seven years. “Dalmarnock closes at half- five,” he says, sipping his tea in the cafe. “There’s an ice-cream van sometimes. Be great to get a butcher’s round here.”
Despite a campaign to save the condemned post office, the tenements and businesses on Springfield Road will be demolished to make way for the 35-hectare athletes’ village. After the games, the accommodation will be fitted with kitchens to provide 1200 homes for sale and 300 affordable social houses for rent.
Redevelopers are still vague about which other streets might face upheaval, but they promise any relocation will be managed with great care. Councillors and planners have tried to dampen fears that the existing community will be priced out of a reinvigorated housing market, but the issue continues to cause worry.
“I’m sure it’ll be great to get all the new facilities, but if there’s new houses we don’t know if people around here will be able to afford them,” says Faulds. “And it wouldn’t be fair if they couldn’t.”
Tom Barclay, social housing specialist at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, is keen to reassure residents. “Our hope is that even the houses for sale will be low-cost and help those on the cusp of affordability,” he says. “The success of the regeneration depends completely on bringing the local people with you. It’s their community.”
In Dalmarnock’s community centre, where the district’s schoolchildren and elderly watched the announcement from Sri Lanka on a big screen, the mood is upbeat. “It’s exciting times and emotional times for everyone,” says volunteer Yvonne Kucuk. “They’ve suffered and they’ll have to continue to suffer inconvenience for a while. But eventually it will transform the community for the better.”
Elizabeth Leddie, 88, has lived locally for 40 years and comes into the centre for her lunch every day. “We were never asked if we wanted the games, but the games are very welcome all the same,” she says. “I’d like to see things getting done for people who’ve lost out over the years, to get business and jobs back here.”
Once an area of heavy industry and full employment, there are hopes commercial development can be sustained in Dalmarnock long after the games have gone. The creation of an urban regeneration company to attract investment is awaiting approval from the Scottish government, and the rosiest scenario predicts 20,000 new jobs in the east end over the next 20 years. It is hoped a new train station, a possible new subway link and the M74 extension will attract further spending power.
Yet scepticism remains. One shopkeeper voices the worst fears of a community used to disappointment: “It’ll be boom-time for Glasgow, but there’ll be f***-all for local people.”
Professor Ivan Turok, of the University of Glasgow’s urban studies department, warns that games-based regeneration would not work without listening to the needs of local people. “The people living in the area must benefit,” he says. “The danger is that outside companies get the lion’s share of contacts and profits.
“Regeneration is not inevitable. In places like Montreal and Edinburgh the games had a negative effect, saddling the cities with a financial burden.”
Those in charge of regeneration are keen to point out the Clyde Gateway project would have remained focused on the long-term fortunes of Dalmarnock even if the games had gone to Abuja, but there is clearly great relief about the impetus the 2014 target now brings.
Keith Pender, head of the Glasgow City Council team in charge of the Clyde Gateway, says no-one will be trampled in the commercial rush. “Where businesses can’t remain locally, we’ll identify alternative locations within the greater Gateway area, and people will get support. There will be a lot of issues over provision of services for local people, so we have to manage that process properly. You can’t leave people with nothing.”
Ronnie Saez, chief executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency, says: “I’m confident people are going to respond and take maximum advantage of all the opportunities that are coming. The games can really bring the pride back to the area.”
In Ardenlea Street, Jaconelli concedes she will have to find somewhere new before 2014. “It’s very sad,” she says. “It’s going to be hard because I’ve never known anything else. But I hope it’ll be a good thing for the east end as a whole.”