What can we do to bring people into this area? Make it more interesting? Do something for local culture?
We constantly hear in this country how small shops are suffering. I don’t deny that, they certainly are. Whether we’re talking about small towns, suburbs, or even city centres, it’s clear that there is a massive problem with empty shops.
Of course, we can blame the supermarkets, chain stores, or out of town retail parks, but that’s only part of the problem. Ten years ago, it was certainly true that they were responsible for putting many small shops out of business. Like many other parts of the western world, Scottish cities were being turned inside out, as the high street moved out of town. Think Hermiston Gait, Gyle Centre etc. Or what lies on either side of Gylemuir Road.
Today, all shops have a new challenge. It’s called internet ordering. You can order all kinds of things at the click of a mouse. Now it’s the turn of the out of town retail parks and shopping centres to feel the pinch. And many are.
There are two places you can buy new books round here:
- WH Smiths – This shop in the Gyle Centre has a good selection, but seems to have little or no awareness that it is located in Scotland.
- Tescos – This has a pretty rotten selection, mostly based on reductions and book charts. Scottish books are ghettoized into a small shelf – tourist kitsch, football books and crime.
Any budding local authors will have great fun trying to get their works sold by either outlet. The charity shops only seem to sell second hand stock.
Of course, there are other options. If we’re going to have shops, make them interesting or quirky. That will draw people into Corstorphine, as opposed to catering to people who already live there. There is one shop that probably qualifies in this regard – Guitar Guitar on St John’s Road. Unfortunately I lack any musical ability.
But shops are not the be all and end all.
There are two other draws in the area – the Zoo, and the rugby stadium. The rugby probably keeps quite a few of the local B&Bs open, but I suspect both the zoo and Murrayfield Stadium are slightly too far from the main part of Corstorphine to draw many people in.
My suggestion… is that some of the uglier buildings* on St John’s Road could be demolished, and a small theatre put in their place. Morningside’s got a theatre. Musselburgh does too. We don’t need anything as big as the Churchill Theatre or the Brunton. A two or three hundred seater would be enough. Put some gallery space in it somewhere, and even better. Yep, and that bookshop?
There are currently no medium sized venues in the area. You have Murrayfield Stadium at one end of the scale – tens of thousands of possible seats… and at the other, schools, church halls and scout halls, all of which sit a few dozen. The CYCC building is unfortunately no more, and it wasn’t on the main road anyway.
This would draw people into the area, and would be an alternative to yet more bland chain stores. And for those who love their shops and cafes – they’d get something out of it too.
That’s enough blether from me. Anybody of any consequence reading this, might like to consider my proposal.
* I’ll leave you to guess which ones I consider ugly. Let’s just say certain buildings which date from after the war…