Govan Workspace has helped to rejuvenate one of Glasgow’s oldest shipbuilding communities, giving disused buildings new life, providing affordable workspace, attracting new businesses and employment opportunities to the area.
It has received five Charity Bank loans since 2006, helping with land purchase and building restoration. Managing Director Pat Cassidy explains how instrumental this has been in bringing about vital change to the Govan area.
“With five shipyards employing thousands of people in the early 1900s, the small community of Govan in Glasgow was shipbuilder to the world. However, global competition took its toll and Govan's vast shipbuilding operation downsized dramatically, forcing many people into unemployment.
“From then on Govan faced huge economic and social problems. As buildings fell into disrepair, a group of us in the late 1970s saw an opportunity to use them to reignite the potential of the area. Since then, we’ve acquired disused buildings and and turned them into affordable office spaces to support local businesses and create jobs.
“Our biggest challenge yet was restoring the Fairfield building: the former headquarters of Scotland's shipbuilding empire and a symbol of Govan's heritage, which many declared beyond saving. 18,000 sq. ft. of industrial heritage was rotting away, and we couldn't let that happen.
“With the help of a Charity Bank loan, a disintegrating structure with smashed windows and gaping ceilings was steadily transformed into a grand building with teak floors, spiral staircase and corniced ceilings. Its lower floors are dedicated to telling the story of Govan's shipbuilding heritage and the upper floors offer workspace for businesses, including a large co-working space for start-ups.
“After decades of shipbuilding excellence, restoring Fairfield has reinstated a huge source of community pride in Govan. The beautifully restored Victorian landmark states loudly and clearly: Govan is open for business. Since its completion in 2014, Fairfield has attracted a lot of tech and design companies to the area and there are now over 20 businesses operating under its roof. We recently completed on another loan with Charity Bank to buy and develop adjacent land for parking, so we can continue welcoming more companies to Fairfield.
“We were initially drawn to working with Charity Bank because they have a similar outlook and philosophy to us and it’s that same ethos that has kept our relationship strong over the years. When you operate within the social sector, dealing with other agents that are sympathetic to its quirks and difficulties is incredibly important.
“The people and organisations that invest with Charity Bank should know how valuable their support is and that the social ripples of their decision to invest ethically travel far and wide. These days there seems to be so few principles involved in what happens to your money and what it’s being used for. That’s why it’s great to know there can still be a positive impact from borrowing and that money repaid to Charity Bank is being recirculated within the sector we cherish.”