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Glasgow’s fire-hit O2 ABC venue set for transformation into food hall and student flats


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Plans to redevelop historic Glasgow O2 ABC site into vibrant community space

Urban regeneration company Vita Group has unveiled plans to transform the former O2 ABC music venue in Glasgow, severely damaged by fire in 2018, into a mixed-use development featuring a food hall and student accommodation.

The proposal aims to revitalise the iconic site on Sauchiehall Street, which has been a prominent part of Glasgow’s cultural landscape since 1875.

Public consultation on the project is set to commence in February.

The Vita Group, known for their previous developments in Glasgow, emphasised the potential of the new plans to create a dynamic community space while addressing the city’s need for student housing.

James Rooke, head of planning for Vita Group, expressed the vision behind the redevelopment: “Our aim is to regenerate this anchor site, bringing forward exciting plans for a vibrant food destination on the ground floor which celebrates community, creates a building which interjects with the adjacent buildings and importantly complements the framework set out for the Golden Z.”

Reactions to the proposal

The announcement has generated varied reactions.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, described the current state of the site as a detriment to the area, welcoming the new plans.

Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, voiced concerns over the absence of a direct replacement for the O2 ABC as a music venue.

The new proposal, focusing on a food hall for concept restaurants and student accommodation, marks a significant shift from the site’s longstanding role as a key player in Glasgow’s entertainment industry.

Davyd said: “We have repeatedly been assured that whatever the outcome of planning/development around the ABC site, a similarly-sized concert hall with a prominent role as a live music venue would be guaranteed to emerge and replace the O2 venue.

“So the simple question we would ask the developer and Glasgow City Council is ‘can they show it to us on these plans?'”

Historical significance and future outlook

The O2 ABC building, with its diverse past as a theatre, circus, dancehall, and cinema, has been a central fixture in Glasgow’s entertainment history.

The first public film screening in Glasgow took place here in 1896, symbolising its long-standing role in the city’s cultural evolution.

The site’s future, post-fire, has been a subject of much debate and anticipation.

The upcoming public consultation, scheduled for 13 February at the Renfield Training Centre, represents a crucial step in determining the future of this historic site.

Gordon Barr, who runs the Scottish Cinemas website, reflected on the building’s resilience and adaptability: “The O2 ABC is a building that’s always survived to serve Glasgow as an entertainment venue. The building’s been through a lot of change, a lot of adaptation. There’s an accretion of layers in its history. It’s done it all.”

IFSJ Comment

The Vita Group’s initiative to transform the fire-damaged O2 ABC venue into a new community space marks a pivotal chapter in the story of this historic Glasgow site.

While the plans offer an opportunity for urban regeneration and address a housing shortfall, they also raise questions about the preservation of cultural heritage and the future of live music venues in the city.

The proposal reflects a broader trend of urban redevelopment, balancing the need for modernisation with respect for historical significance.

The outcome of this project will not only shape the physical landscape of Sauchiehall Street but also influence the cultural and social fabric of Glasgow.

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