Hot Spot Glasgow: It's got culture, it's got architecture, it's even got a bit of the BBC. What are you waiting for?
THE FIRST surprise when the winner of the European City of Culture 1990 was announced was the name Glasgow. This stunner was followed by a growing recognition that the award was genuinely deserved.

Brussels may have concocted the City of Culture designation as a tourist- luring PR exercise, and Scotland's largest city was and still is by no means unblemished, but it really did have a lot going for it.

Now the birthplace of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is again strutting its stuff, this time as 1999 UK City of Architecture and Design. Included in a massive year-long display of exhibits is a housing construction project known as Homes for the Future.

"The property market is very strong," says estate agent Alan Baxter of Slater Hogg & Howison. "Glasgow is a great Victorian city that is attracting Scottish and London developers. We've seen price rises of approximately 10 per cent over the last 12 months, primarily due to a shortage of stock."

Glasgow has very different residential property to its rival Edinburgh, just 46 miles away. "In Edin- burgh the middle class lives in the city centre, but Glasgow has only one or two residential areas in the centre, the West End and Merchant City," says Baxter. "Considering Glasgow's size, the centre is relatively small."

Baxter himself lives in the West End, which "of our 28 branches, has the quickest sales and the best prices. But Merchant City probably offers even higher yields."

Baxter likens the West End to London's Hampstead or Notting Hill: "It is a university area with Victorian and Edwardian houses, and plenty of art nouveau. The BBC is here, and major hospitals. The area is a mix of media, professionals and students."

Stephen McKean, area director for Allen & Harris estate agents, contends that Clarkston and Newton Mearns are as buoyant as Merchant City and the West End. "The average turnaround in Clarkston is only 21 days - from putting a property on to the market to completion."

In these areas, a council block does not necessarily signify a Gorbals- like tenement. "Many of these buildings were put up after the Second World War to house returning soldiers. A lot have been purchased by the tenants, and you can get more accommodation and better value for the same money as a traditional sandstone tenement," says McKean.

In Baxter's view, Glasgow property development has been "immature, although many office occupiers in the centre are moving out of town, which is releasing a lot of Victorian buildings. We still need to develop the riverside areas. At the moment Glasgow is the only city in the world where values drop near the river. Recently there has been talk about developing the riverside, but we have heard this so often."

This time, the talk may not be cheap. A major riverside scheme is one of many construction projects that look set to create thousands of jobs along with many architecturally distinguished new homes.

The Low-Down Transport: Glasgow boasts an underground, a rail network, two airports (Glasgow International and Prestwick) and ferry service. The M77 extension has eased intra-city commuting.

Prices and profits: Alan Baxter says that average prices are about pounds 80,000 in the centre, pounds 40,000 in outlying Glasgow, and pounds 64,000 for Scotland overall. He estimates that a pounds 40,000 property in an outlying district may rise by only a few thousand in the next three to five years, whereas an pounds 80,000 city-centre property may increase to pounds 120,000.

Properties: In addition to period flats and houses, the wide range of residential possibilities includes lofts in erstwhile whisky warehouses in Collegelands and Port Dundas for pounds 38,000-pounds 86,000. A luxury penthouse can sell for as much as pounds 275,000. Logan Construction is building eight luxury flats, including duplexes and one triplex, near Glasgow Green. Crown Street is a 40-acre redevelopment in the Gorbals.

Homes for the Future: This pounds 10m development is tapping public and private funding to build 300 new homes on a former industrial site by 2005. Show homes and specially designed interiors from the initial phase went on display last month.

Waterside: Glasgow Harbour is an 80-acre mixed-use scheme on the River Clyde at Meadowside/Yorkhill in central Glasgow, jointly developed by Clydeport Properties and the Bank of Scotland. The outline plan calls for multi-screen cinemas, restaurants, fitness centres, a hotel, shopping, offices and 900 new homes on 30 acres.

Green Bluewater: Scotland's largest city-centre shopping centre is the pounds 240m Buchanan Galleries, whose 80 shops include John Lewis, Miss Selfridge, Nike and Habitat.

The websites: Between them, and provide a rich panoply of facts, figures and activities concerning the city and the year's celebration of architecture and design.

Estate agents: Allen & Harris, 0141-556 7661; Slater Hogg & Howison, 0141-552 8599.