A NEW look city centre is being planned for Glasgow in a bid to help make it one of the best in Europe.
As the global downturn hits the key retail, tourism and finance sectors, a strategy is being devised to ensure the city is ready to take advantage when the economy picks up.
Action to tackle empty shops and buildings, attract jobs and connect retail, tourism, education and research centres are central themes in the council's new City Centre Strategy.
It involves investigating new road layouts and traffic management changes to boost city streets that are struggling to keep pace with Buchanan Street as it continues to dominate the retail sector.
The five-year plan will focus on ensuring Glasgow's success in retail and hospitality continues but will also look to opportunities in education and the growth in renewables and science and technology.
Liz Cameron, Executive member for Development and Regeneration, said a review was needed as the last action plan was drawn up in 2006.
Fewer people are now visiting the city centre, the number of vacant shops has increased and a target to get more people living in the city centre has not been achieved.
Internet shopping, out of town malls and the recession have all hit retail, though Glasgow has coped well with the downturn.
Ms Cameron, said: "Since the previous city centre strategy the world has changed and many challenges have arisen.
"There have been challenges to retail from on-line shopping and through the economic downturn."
The focus of the plan is to link the main shopping areas with Buchanan Street, the universities and arts centres to the north of the city centre, the International Financial Services District, the riverside, the SECC and the new Hyrdro Arena and to breathe like back into the Trongate area.
Ms Cameron added: "There is a lack of connectivity between areas of the city centre."
In a report to be considered by councillors this week the former Lord Provost, said: "The development of a new city centre strategy over 2012 will include a comprehensive and collaborative review of city centre retail strategy, including the historic planning zoning policy and specifically a consideration of whether areas like Union Street, Argyle Street, Sauchiehall Street, Trongate, and many other secondary and tertiary retail streets should in fact be completely reconfigured."
Ms Cameron said there will be numerous opportunities for Glasgow to capitalise in coming years.
She said: " The Commonwealth Games will do what the City of Culture did in 1990, making people want to visit Glasgow. Tourism and conference business will grow.
"We need to find the right sources of funding, and there are various routes."
She mentions private funding, European funds and schemes like Business Improvement Districts and also using pension funds to invest in new developments.
"Public realm improvements were successful, retail development was successful, but there is so much more to the city centre that we need to promote. The learning and academic centres, new centres for renewables and technology with the universities but what needs to happen is these areas are connected."
The last plan was produced in more prosperous times and expected continued success in retail, commerce and bringing more people to live in the city centre
Increased retail and office space was created, but filling the buildings has been difficult in the recession.
Tourism is judged to have performed well with hotel occupancy high and 30,000 staff employed in the industry.
Retail however, while still doing better than other UK cities, has seen a drop in footfall. A quarter of a million fewer visitors have visited the 'Style Mile' area focused on Buchanan Street, over the last five years.
There has been an increase in vacant shops over the last three years, from 8.3% to 10.3%, and the number of people employed in the city centre has fallen from 150,000 to 130,000 since 2008.
The target was to grow employment to 160,000.
A target to increase the city centre population by 4000 to 17,400 has been missed, with only 2400 moving in over the last five years
The council admit funding will be a challenge and are looking to partnerships with other agencies, the private sector and making more use of the Tax Incremental Finance scheme that is being used for street works around the Buchanan Galleries extension
Business Improvement District applications and European funds like the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas may also be tapped. They are also exploring the possibility of using public sector pension funds to invest in developments.