During 2023 one side of Mitchell Way gets a long anticpated demolition. The premises decayed over what seemed like many years to a state when everyone who knew them felt they just had to go. You can find a record of their state just before demolition here: index.asp?pageid=733663
But in their heyday they were considered an innovative layout with housing above shops forming a friendly and safe urban mall. Several pedestian access points with metal arches and a subtle bend created an intimate space. At one end was the CoOp supermarket facing across to Mckays fashion shop and at the other the then almost iconic two storey CoOp department store. A string of smaller shops and other businesses linked these two ends. Nearby carparking was generous.
Move on into the 2020s and the scenario is much altered. Some shops are struggling. The large CoOp department store has shrunk down to an Iceland outlet. The flats above the one side of the mall over time have proved not to be practical and therefore not popular.
Public consultations by the West Dunbartonshire Council confirmed the public feeling and developers eyed this and the surrounding areas. It was decided to take down the double storeyed section on the one side. New development is on the cards (2023), but while the newness will be a relief, we can only wait to see if the ambience and scale really match up to what was once here. The public generally see newness as the answer.
To get all this in perspective we need to step back to an even earlier era. Mitchell Way was Mitchell Street linking the Main Road with Bank Street. It was flanked by housing. At the bend a road called Random Street branched off to the south east. Its name may seem to depict a state of confused town planning, but it was parallel with Bank Street and reflects a strong association with a Tobias Smollett character.
The Vale of Leven History Project website notes that Mitchell Street was one of the oldest Streets in Alexandria dating back to about 1800. It was a very busy street, being the first vehicular link going south between Main Street and Bank Street. From the 1880's onwards it housed the Co-op Yard - stables, garages, and even the Co-op's own electricity-generating station to begin with.
Latterly the Salvation Army Hall stood next to the entrance to the Co-op Yard, in what had originally been an old single storey house. A religious group who eventually moved to Susannah Street had converted this into the Ebenezer Hall. Then the Salvation Army moved in and used it as their Hall, until it was demolished about 1973.
There were also a number of tenement buildings dating from 1810-20 as well as Argyll Terrace, one of the best red sandstone buildings in Alexandria, which occupied almost half of the north side of the Street. Its demolition in 1972-3 was particularly stupid. Random Street ran due south to John Street from about Mitchell Street's mid-point.
A mao from 1860. See reference below. You can see Mitchell Way's predessor, Mitchell Street. Besides replacing the buildings along its length, extensive clearing was done for the generous carparks. While Mitchell Way itself became a pedestrianised mall, this was the era of the private car. Main Street has a mix of housing and commerce. Also note St Andrews Church, a school where the Community Centre now stands, Oakbank house where Aldi now stands and even an iron foundry. NLS ©
Smart new steps, benches and tree surrounds installed by the Council give a much more optimistic atmosphere at the Main Street end.
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND MAPS (NLS) : an extract from the map for Dumbartonshire, Sheet XVIII. Survey date: 1860, Publication date: 1864.
VALE OF LEVEN HISTORY PROJECT website. : http://www.valeofleven.org.uk/scottishplacenames/Mvale_names2.html