Hot Spot: Glasgow

A stint as a European Capital of Culture showcased one of the UK's most vibrant arts communities, says Robert Liebman
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World-renowned in its shipbuilding heyday, the River Clyde is once again taking centre stage in Glasgow. "Glasgow's housing market has undergone a metamorphosis in the past 15 years," says Alan Baxter, regional director of Slater Hogg & Howison. "The conversion of the Todd Building in the mid-Nineties filled a gap by introducing high-quality, fashionable city-centre living and began the trend that was to grow and grow. The story now is the harbour regeneration."

A commercial, residential, retail and leisure joint venture between Clydeport and the Bank of Scotland, Glasgow Harbour will regenerate 120 acres of derelict waterfront between the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and the Clyde Tunnel. Construction, which is expected to take up to 10 years, has begun on the first of six residential phases on the 30-acre site, totalling 2,500 homes. Homebuilder Bryant reports selling 191 units within 48 hours of release in July, with investors from Scotland, the South of England, the States and Hong Kong vying with locals - more than 60 of whom queued overnight.

Elsewhere in the city, the conversion of the central post office, warehouses and other commercial premises remain popular and, prices are continuing to rise accordingly, says Baxter. "Other hot spots include the ever-popular West End where property can sell for up to 30 per cent over the asking price. The average house price in Glasgow has overtaken that of Edinburgh for the first time ever, and the market is predicted to perform at a steady pace."

Stephen McKean of estate agents Allen & Harris is slightly less bullish but in general agreement: "Riverside redevelopment is not new to Glasgow, but the scale of Glasgow Harbour is a first. Our West End office is very much a sellers' market, and we are achieving prices 20 per cent above the asking price. Prices rose by about 10 per cent last year. I don't think they will drop, but they should stabilise."

His buyers are a mix of locals trading up, parents buying premises for their student children and job relocators. "In terms of tenants, the West End is hospital- and university-driven, but for investors prices are almost too hot. Many have been buying new build, assuming they can get a better return. But I think the market will take a downturn shortly, and some buyers are putting their properties back on the market already."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

The M8 bisects Glasgow, which has an underground, extensive rail access, two airports (Glasgow International and Prestwick) and ferry services.

Shopping

Glasgow has traditional outdoor markets but the mood is upmarket. Gianni Versace selected this city for his first UK location, and the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre lures locals and suburbanites alike.

Entertainment

The first Imax cinema north of the border is located at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre. The Film Theatre is an independent arthouse cinema, and there are two Odeons, boasting 12 and nine screens. King's Theatre hosts touring musicals and annual pantos, and the Citizens Theatre is a Victorian auditorium with two modern studio theatres specialising in British and European classics.

Cultural pursuits

The city has more than 20 museums and art galleries, a new planetarium, and concert venues for the Scottish Opera and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Events

BBC Proms in the Park this Saturday features the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Other autumn events include the five-day multifaceted Merchant City Festival, Big Big World (a global music festival), Si Cuba! (music and arts festival honouring Glasgow's new twin city), Glasgay!, and a French Film Festival. Still running are the Whistler Centenary and the History of the Rose.

Prices

Desperate first-time buyers could pay between £35,000 to £40,000 for a flat in need of modernisation in a rundown area. Trendy or luxury warehouse conversions or waterside new-builds start at about £100,000, rising to £300,000. In Balfron, just north of Glasgow, a new three-double-bed family house overlooks open fields; offers over £198,000 through Slater Hogg.

Properties

In the ornate Italian Centre in the Merchant City area, a one-bedroom flat is for sale at £155,000. The living room has a separate raised area for use as a small office or study; through Slater Hogg. A two-bedroom flat in a converted warehouse with canal views is £130,000 through Allen & Harris.

Flats

One-bed flat in a converted townhouse in Dowanhill; £105,000 through Slater Hogg. Two-bed first-floor flat in a four-storey tenement in Woodlands near the West End, £110,000. Three-bed first-floor flat in a four-storey sandstone in Partick near Kelvingrove is £115,000, while a two-bed (shared) garden flat in Park in the West End has a fixed price of £230,000 at Allen & Harris.

Castle, anyone?

Bardowie Castle in Milngavie, seven miles from Glasgow, is a listed bona fide castle with Georgian addition, integral flat, tennis court, shooting and fishing rights, and about nine acres; offers over £950,000 at Strutt & Parker.

Harbour new

Four three-bedroom apartments remain in the second release at the 321-unit Bryant Homes development at Glasgow Harbour, from £350,000 (0141 334 5518).

Estate agents

Allen & Harris, 0141 339 3103; Knight Frank, 0141 566 9042; Slater Hogg & Howison, 0141 552 8599; Strutt & Parker, 0141 225 3880.

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