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PERTH CIT Y HALL The overriding purpose of any future use for the City Halls must be revitalization of the City centre. The remarketing of this great building presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the long-term decline of Perth’s commercial heart. There is no real benefit in proposing a new use for the City Hall merely for the sake of ensuring its preservation. That is not nearly enough. The design and function of the project must not only integrate the building with the adjoining streets but must also ensure a major uplift in the fortunes of the High Street, South St. John Street and St John’s Centre. That is Objective No.1. To achieve it, the redeveloped City Hall must pull thousands more potential customers into the centre every month.


The Only Viable Use

As there is clearly no civic or institutional demand for the building that would be economically viable, nor any demand from the leisure or service industries that the building could satisfy, some form of retail use is the only practicable option, but only if it is entirely different – i.e. in a form that is complementary to, and so reinforces, traditional downtown shopping provision. Yet even meeting this essential qualification is still not enough; for the ultimate test must be that the proposed use is one that Perth would want in any event, on its own merits, irrespective of the City Hall altogether. In order to prove the worth of this new form of retail use, the answer to the question, “Would Perth still need a Market Hall even if this building was not available” must be ‘Yes’. So this functionality test is Objective No.2. Now that the building has indeed become available, the question arises as to its fitness for this specific use – are the City Hall and a Market Hall a perfect match? That becomes Objective No.3. Perth City Market Trust is convinced that the concept of Scotland’s first modern Food Market Hall achieves all three Objectives, especially as it includes several bonuses. For the existing magnificent Entrance Hall creates the ideal venue for a new Tourist Shop & Visitor Centre, while two new upper floors can accommodate much-needed Youth Enterprise activities on the 1st floor and restaurants on the top floor with access to the existing roof terrace commanding panoramic views across the City.



So where will those hordes of extra customers that Perth needs come from? They will come from: (a) regular local shoppers, much of whose retail expenditure has been and is still being captured by out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks but which will be diverted by the Market Hall back to the centre; (b) the increase in tourists and other visitors attracted by the Market Hall; and (c) an entirely new shopping public created by the Market Hall’s effect of greatly enlarging Perth’s present retail catchment area far out into the surrounding region, where there is vast potential, considering the huge volume of consumer turnover lost by Perth to Dundee (Overgate), Stirling (Thistle Centre), Dunfermline (Kingsgate), Edinburgh (St James Centre) and Inverness (Eastgate) over the last fifty years – not to mention Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes – which have relegated Perth from fifth place to well below tenth in turnover among Scottish top shopping destinations.


The 4th Objective – ‘the buzz’

In future years every traditional town centre will continue to suffer the depredations of out-of-town retailing – with free car-parking and comparatively low rents and rates as opposed to high rents and rates and punitive car-parking charges downtown – and while there is no escape from the ravages of internet shopping, nevertheless Perth need not suffer nearly so badly as its rivals. For it is seldom recognized that what actually causes the worst damage of all to our town and city centres is not so much those familiar economic factors themselves as the losses of social vitality, of local character and culture, which those economic factors cause.¬ But with the Market Hall, Perth will possess the ‘X Factor’ – the buzz, the variety and excitement – that town centres generally have lost. No supermarket or retail-park, nor the rapidly diminishing number of High Street shopping centres, can generate the buzz of a Market Hall. So the project must deliver not only a commercial and cultural attraction but also a social hub – the popular centre of the city – adding dramatically to Perth’s appeal as a shopping destination and as a tourist centre. This ‘X Factor’ – the buzz – is Objective No.4. No wonder that the “Death of the High Street” is frequently predicted, or even pronounced. Rows of standard shop units, many of them vacant or boarded up and many

of the rest either cafés or charity shops, on noisy traffic thoroughfares or on deserted streets, hold few attractions for shoppers, nor do soulless enclosed malls. “Going shopping” is no longer a leisure activity in its own right when mainly spent in a check-out queue or when security staff out-number sales assistants. “Death” has not yet arrived in big city centres where shops still sell fur coats and grand pianos; but it is already evident or threatening in densely populated districts of most former industrial cities which have lost their original character, in centres of many former manufacturing towns that have lost their raisons d’être and in so many country towns that have lost their traditional markets.


The threats to the city centre

Smaller High Street shops, the independents and specialists, are severely handicapped not only by forever rising overheads, outgoings and costs of labour but most especially by the cost of ‘inventory’ – of carrying stock on expensive floor-space. Depending on the nature of the trade, the capital value of a shop’s own warehousing at selling prices may exceed say a month’s sales; in extreme contrast to the mainly fresh merchandise in a Food Market Hall which will turnover every few days, yielding a vastly higher rate of profit. This point high-lights an essential economic difference between traditional High Streets and a modern Market Hall.

According to the president of the insolvency body R3 (Sunday Times, 3rd February 2013), who has dealt with the recent collapses of many high-profile multiple retailers: “We are turning into America. All across the US there are no High Streets. But you can still get everything you want. Instead of a parking fine you have a day out at the mall.” But the big difference is that he does not mean a “mall” like one of ours in Britain which is contained within or attached to an old-established town centre: he means a stand-alone “mall” which replaces the old town centre, soon joined by leisure and civic facilities. New internet technologies are undermining ‘live’ retailing even more deeply. He adds that: “In retail, management teams [with which he includes local authorities] like sticking to what they know, to something that was once a useful formula. But that is over.” Currently, over thirty shops a week in Britain are closing, while expenditure on internet shopping is increasing at over 15% a year. Worst of all is the realisation that this slump in retailing was not precipitated by the financial and property crash of 2008 – as many authorities and vested interests like to pretend in the hope that economic recovery will bring a revival – for it is an inevitable long-term trend that has merely been aggravated by the recession. In face of the triple onslaught from out-of-town retailing, regional competition and the internet, Perth city centre will continue to degenerate unless it acquires a powerful new magnet. A ‘state-of-the-art’ Market Hall is the readiest and most effective form such a magnet could take. For this is the vital new form of retail, the first in Scotland but familiar and highly successful in every other advanced country in the world, selling every variety of the one essential commodity – FOOD – for which we all have to go shopping every week several times a week. How ironic that most people at first confuse the concept of a modern Market Hall with a street market or a covered market and so assume that, like them, our Market Hall would trade only two or three days a week, even though they buy food almost every day, yet assume that nonfood retailers – jewellers and shoe-shops – which they visit only occasionally, should keep open full-time! How ironic, too, that they question a Market Hall’s viability because retailing is in a slump whereas, on the contrary, it is precisely because retailing is in a slump that Perth’s greatest need is a modern Market Hall – and happens to have the perfect building for it!


The unique opportunity for Perth

The freshness, colour, variety and sociability of a Market Hall are its special attractions. ‘The Courier’ reported on 11 February this year, under the headline ‘Perthshire’s produce gives visitors food for thought’: “Sampling Perthshire’s local produce is the most popular activity for visitors, according to recent research commissioned by VisitScotland. The Scotland Visitor Survey revealed 50% of visitors said ‘trying local food’ was their most popular activity.” Also, the ‘Perthshire Advertiser’ on 12 February featured a letter from the Regional Director of VisitScotland himself, headlined ‘Shire’s natural larder attracts the tourists’, in which he elaborated on the survey. Unaccountably, there is little evidence of civic awareness in Perth that this was the first town in Scotland to sign a formal Cittaslow Agreement, with which the Market Hall project is very much in tune; so this is a relationship that the Perth City Market Trust will reactivate, because it will promote local produce and local businesses.


Tourist Shop and Visitor Centre

The Trust will collaborate closely with VisitScotland as well as Perth & Kinross Council in planning and operating the new Tourist Shop & Visitor Centre to be constructed within the City Hall’s existing magnificent entrance hall, which will command the pedestrian flow in and out of the main frontage.

A town or city centre today must be much more than a shopping centre – it must be a destination – and not just for a sporting event or entertainment one or two afternoons or evenings a week and not just during the tourist season but all day and all week and all round the year. Perth’s vitality is largely sustained by the Concert Hall, Theatre and Cinema, good local newspapers, very good hotels and restaurants, and the tourist trade; but the shopping environment, which a generation ago was one of its boasted attractions, has become dangerously fragile. The Market Hall itself will become a major visitor and tourist attraction, unique to Perth. Indeed, it will become a destination in its own right, substantially enlarging the city’s regional and national shopping catchment area, to the benefit of the city centre as a whole. Top left, The Lesser Hall and the Main Hall. Left, Perth city centre. Above, Example of a Tourist Information Centre..

u The adaptation of the building The key to the revival of the city centre, therefore, is to bring high quality food retailing back into the heart of it; and the key to the success of the Market Hall, six days a week, is intensive retailing, operating under intensive management. Stalls will be specially designed, prefabricated of standard unitsizes and let for terms of only six months or multiples thereof. An incoming stall-holder signs a simple Form of Agreement, paying rent in advance for one quarter and thereafter paying for the second quarter, while serving notice on the management of intention either to quit or to renew on expiry of the term, provided the management does not serve a prior notice of termination. Each party’s rights and obligations are perfectly clear to avoid any risk of dispute. The rent is to include all charges (uniform per modular unit) for rates, insurance, security, heating, lighting, cleaning, repairs and renewals, promotion and management fees. Tenants will only have a separate quarterly bill for their own consumption of power and water as measured by individually metered supplies connecting the stalls to sockets fitted flush at floor-level by a lockable closure. Adjoining the public toilets is a block of communal toilet and secure storage facilities for tenants. Extending the depth of several of the tall, narrow existing windows down to pavement level increases natural light while creating additional doorways which facilitate pedestrian flows through the building, both lengthwise from King Edward Street to the front of the Kirk and across between the side streets, greatly enhancing circulation and the ‘buzz’. The adaptation works will include removal of the existing floor in the Main Hall and of the steps up from King Edward Street into the entrance hall, to provide a continuous floor level, flush with the front pavement and extending across the whole of the Main Hall, laid above the new utilities supplies. A change in level up a few steps and ramp for wheelchairs will connect the back of the Main Hall to the Lesser Hall. Whereas the Main Hall will be devoted to fresh foods, the Lesser Hall stalls will deal in non-fresh foods and other household necessities, which do not require a formal floor-plan nor do they require individual

GROUND FLOOR PLAN • Market • Tourist Information • Events • Cafe

FIRST FLOOR PLAN • Youth Enterprise • Offices

SECOND FLOOR PLAN • Restaurant/Bar

water and power connections. This flexibility in the layout of the Lesser Hall gives the immense advantage that the floor can be easily cleared to accommodate a wide range of social events and community activities, for which the Trust’s management will cater, restoring the Lesser Hall to the purposes which it served so successfully for a hundred years. The new upper floors are galleried around a hollow rectangle, which creates exciting views and vitality at all levels. A new scenic lift rises from this atrium to the upper floors, supplementing access from the two existing staircases. The style of tenancy for the market stalls eliminates any risk of disputes over notices to renew or to quit or over rental values. For one unique advantage enjoyed by traders and management alike within this structure is that forty or more individual stalls held on six-monthly tenancies will generate such a continuous turnover of renewals and replacements, each one yielding fresh, first-hand, conclusive evidence of value, that rental values will soon find their own levels and become transparent. Apart from this freedom from long-term commitment, the chief attractions to tenants are: minimal fitting-out costs, minimal overheads and outgoings, freedom from management worries, plus the huge bonus of support and stimulus provided by fellow-traders; for it is very much in their individual and collective interests to help one another out in every way. Conversely, the chief attractions to the developermanager are: lower construction

costs than for a new development of standard shop units; relatively easy management as a collective whole on a uniform basis and a practically dispute-proof system. Also, surprisingly, rental values per square foot will be at least as high as for High Street units, because the whole area of a stall is ‘zone A’ – it’s all ‘shop window’ – so that a stall of standard 150 square feet (including back space) which is say 10% in area of a typical single shop unit should command at least 15% of its rental value per square foot. Naturally, if any stalls are temporarily vacant, they can be let by the month or even by the day – for which there is

generally a demand – so maintaining the occupancy rate and adding to the variety. Standard Forms of Agreement will be drawn up to suit the location and reflect the relevant terms and conditions in the Perth City Market Trust’s Ground Lease from the Council, in consultation with the National Association of British Market Authorities, of which the Trust qualifies as a Member, and also with the National Federation of Market Traders acting in the interests of the stall-holders. Market Traders acting in the interests of the stallholders. Above and below, 3D visualisation of proposed Market Hall within Perth City Hall.


Examples of splendid Market Halls

Perhaps the best covered market in the British Isles is the English Market in the Irish City of Cork. The floor-space and the city’s retail catchment population are respectively comparable in size to the City Hall and the Perth region, and for its transformation of the 1862 building it was awarded the Europa Nostra Gold Medal in 1981 and was visited by The Queen during her state Visit in 2011. It comprises 56 stalls plus 7 on the upper floor, and is described as providing “a civic space, a meeting place, a bustling social hub for the city, with the pride of place accorded to small traders, growing emphasis on organic products and reliance on small-scale producers – a mix of traditional Cork fare and exciting new foods from afar, with long-standing family-run stalls and newcomers.....” sounding very much like the future Perth City Market! Southport, with Liverpool and Preston on either side, has a population of 91,000 and little hinterland or history. It is again comparable with Perth as is its Market Hall which provides 16,000 square feet of floor-space. The Borough Council, recognizing its importance in preserving the town’s identity and comparative prosperity, refurbished the Victorian Market Hall at a cost of £3,300,000, and it is open 6 days a week. Interestingly, too, a new “Market Quarter” has been established in the adjacent Market Street as a specialist and seasonal market – as Perth City Market will embrace its immediate surroundings in a new Market Square. Swansea Market Hall, originally built in 1894 but destroyed in the war-time blitz and rebuilt in 1961, is the fourth Market Hall on the site in two centuries, such is its importance even to a large city like Swansea with a population of 240,000. Open six days a week, it has over a hundred independent traders, who are described in official publicity as “the life-blood of our city centre”. It adjoins the Quadrant Shopping Centre which is similar to our St John’s Centre. Huge numbers of visitors travel from all over Wales and the West Midlands of England. Another outstanding example is the St George’s Market in Belfast which was built in 1890-96, refurbished in 1995-98 and reopened in 1999. It is famous for its 23 fish & seafood stalls and its flower market, attracting crowds from all over Ireland. All of this demonstrates, as does a study of a score or more of other Market Halls throughout Britain, that they all work successfully. Why? Firstly because, in that fiercely competitive atmosphere and with all their merchandise displayed in its natural state under the customers’ noses, everything has to be of the highest quality (though not necessarily of the supermarkets’ perfect shape!).

Clockwise from above: Cork, Belfast, Swansea, Cork, Rotterdam.

Secondly because stall-holders have a far closer relationship with customers than have shop-assistants. It’s their own or their family’s or friends’ business and they have to assert themselves much more, shouting against the crowd, indulging in banter, while watching their competitors’ prices and thinking about how best to adjusting their stock. Thirdly because the three categories of merchandise which our market traders will not sell are fashion, ‘bigticket’ goods (furniture, appliances) and luxuries – the very categories that have suffered most in the slump! Fourthly because, over the entire range in a fresh Food Market, the principle has to be maximum volume at minimum price – as the public are well aware. Looking briefly abroad, most ancient European cities have glorious Gallerias or Market Squares; where the climate is warmer, supermarket competition and labour costs lower and the cost of buildings probably written off long ago, for all of which reasons a more extravagant use of space is generally permissible. The principles are the same – they are all immensely popular – but in Britain every square foot is precious; hence the tight grid layout of stalls. Perhaps the best well-established example of what Perth City Market Trust plans is in the centre of Adelaide, South Australia, which is managed by the local branch of a UKbased global firm of commercial property surveyors. The Central Market offers 24 stalls selling fruit and vegetables, 9 for meat and fish, 6 delicatessen, 10 stalls selling cheeses, dairy products & spices, 6 bakery, 4 confectionery, 3 florists, 8 restaurants & cafés, and 8 specialities – books, photo, chemist, etc: 78 stalls in all. It is a chief feature of the whole population of the city’s life and a paradise for tourists.


Executive and Management structure

Contrary to normal commercial practice, Perth City Market Trust’s system for management of the project will be based on rental streams rather than capital values. This is because the purpose of the Trust is not to create an investment for sale, as is commonly the case with a retail development where the shop units are let on commercial leases of 5 or 10 years or longer, but to hold the Ground Lease from the Council indefinitely for the benefit of the whole community. Developers usually put up the building and let it, then sell the investment to realize a capital profit, i.e. the excess of proceeds of sale over total costs. In this case, however, Perth City Market Trust, having completed the development and first lettings, will hold and manage the complex, very much ‘hands on’, eventually deriving a net income in excess of annual funding costs, any such excess to be devoted to further improvements or some other compatible enterprise in the City. Stallholders have no interest beyond occupancy for the purpose of conducting their trade, while Perth City Market Trust has no interest beyond managing and constantly improving the Market Hall for the benefit of the people of Perth.


Investment attractions

As an investment opportunity, this project has several special attractions.



l Third – the essential strength of the Market Hall as an

First, it is live and it is transparent: the investor can witness and monitor its performance and engage with the developer-manager. The Market Hall cannot be threatened with any direct competition and the demand for its business – the sale of food – cannot fail. Investments will be safeguarded and nurtured by intensive hands-on management which is committed to the long term. Second, it has the advantage of direct participation from year to year in the actual rental income from the complex, free from dependency on the vagaries of investment yields based on notional capital values. The rental income, and hence the return on investment, is assured of stability with built-in inflation (an investor’s most desired outlook), because it must reflect retail food prices.

investment medium – is the multiplicity and diversity of tenants, being continually renewed and improved by internal competition and external demand. Traders can all rely on their composite strength while retaining individual independence, provided they each remain as good as the rest. A conventional shopping development is dependent on a few big names, any of which may fail or pull out; but the Market Hall is like the symbolic bundle of rods which are tied together so cannot break.

April 2013 This document has been produced by Simpson & Brown Architects on behalf of the Perth City Market Trust. Further information from; Perth City Market Trust, 21 Marshall Place, Perth PH2 8AG Email; All images are copyright of Simpson & Brown Architects



A Market Hall in a Market Square