IT is impossible to ignore the strong stench as you walk past the former BHS store squatting at the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Renfield Street.

While there are plans afoot - finally - to redevelop the building that formerly housed the now-defunct high street favourite into a £40 million office block, the fact it has sat empty for so long seems symbolic of a wider downturn in city centres more generally.

It's nothing new: out of town shopping malls with free parking and shops all clustered close to one another satisfy our lazier selves.

No need for public transport and barely any need to walk around.

They have all the lure of absolute convenience.

Online shopping satisfies our even lazier selves.

No need for transport of any kind and no need for any walking at all, you can shop in your pyjamas from your bed if you wish.

Add in the economic downturn of the past few years and you have a perfect storm of damage to the local high street.

Then, add in two major fires and you have a perfect tornado of damage for Sauchiehall Street.


Sauchiehall Street has become a disgusting mess

Poor old Sauchiehall Street.

At one end, the aforementioned BHS building, its whited out windows and boarded up doors, the fly postering and stench making an unfriendly gatekeeper to the rest of the street.

Walk further up and the trees that line the next section of the block are spindly and half-hearted, the pavements grey and speckled with hardened chewing up.

This all running alongside the gap site left by the Victoria's nightclub fire.

Further along still and you run into the road works and barriers caused by the Avenues project and the lingering after effects of the Glasgow School of Art fire.

Last year the Evening Times counted 75 empty businesses up for let or closed due to the fires, although this has now halved.

Sauchiehall Street isn't alone in having seen better days.

Each year in the UK more shops open than close.

Pubs and clothes shops are the biggest casualties among the 14 shops closing every day.

On one hand, Sauchiehall Street represents a major challenge.

Or is it a major opportunity?

At the moment it seems there is optimism for what is a significant stretch of one of Glasgow's most significant streets.

As people choose to vote by not using their feet and instead drive to out of town retail bases or shop online, a really strong pull must be created to lure people back into the city.

But the focus for revamping Sauchiehall Street doesn't only have to be on new restaurant, retail and coffee shop openings.

It can't only include new office space.

Another important factor is to encourage people to live in the city centre and use the area as a local high street.

If shoppers and diners are leaving the city to eat and buy in places more convenient to travel to, it's vital to make sure there are enough residents for whom the city centre is on their doorstep.

Of Sauchiehall Street, Theo Mitchell, owner of London-based Bywater Properties, which is leading the McClellan Works project on the street, said: "It's got character. It's got a bit of git."

Currently, you could argue it has too much grit and not enough pearl.


Finnieston could help fire-hit Sauchiehall Street fight back from trade slump

But the plans and ideas for the street are hugely promising and interesting.

They include a truly diverse mix of different offerings.

If all goes as promised, there will be art spaces, office space, retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, nightclubs and a smart-looking cycle lane.

Looking to the South Side of the city, Victoria Road has a few more examples of how to breath new life into a high street.

Among new restaurants, coffee shops and vintage and record stores, social enterprises have taken up home.

Some of these offer space for people to socialise and learn new skills, helping also to tackle the loneliness epidemic we hear so much about.

Innovative co-working spaces have popped up near by, which will make a neat circle: new businesses lured by existing successes and those existing successes boosted by customers using these new businesses.

The high street as we knew it can't be saved and must adapt to fill new needs.

Could Sauchiehall Street become a blueprint for how to rejuvenate a failing street?

It is highly credible that it could.

The council needs to keep a close and strategic watch on the direction it is taking - and answer businesses concerns about high rates - but exciting prospects lie ahead. If it all goes to plan.