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Exclusive: Owners reveal £5m revamp plans for huge office block on Aberdeen’s Union Street

Developers have pledged to breathe new life into the struggling Granite Mile - with plans that could bring in an influx of office staff.

Caledonian House office in Aberdeen city centre.
Caledonian House office revamp plans could bring new life to Aberdeen city centre. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

A £5 million makeover of an Aberdeen city centre office block could bring scores of new workers onto the Granite Mile.

Caledonian House, on the corner of Union Street and Union Row, was sold in a deal thought to be worth about £2m last year.

The former Wood Group premises is now lying empty.

But its new owners are The SRE Group, who have a strong track record when it comes to filling such premises.

Caledonian House in Aberdeen with scaffolding around it
The building is being done up both inside and out. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

They took the almost empty Salvesen Tower at the harbour from bust to bustling…

After buying it for a rock bottom £25,000 following the downturn, they renamed it Union Point, did it up and had it packed with workers a few years later.

And now they have similar high hopes for Caledonian House – which is being renamed Aurora Aberdeen under the revamp.

The 11-storey Salvesen Tower at Blaikie’s Quay, Aberdeen
The 11-storey Salvesen Tower at Blaikie’s Quay, Aberdeen, was valued at £5m before the oil downturn and high business rates. It ended up selling for a fraction of that. Image: DC Thomson

Leaders say the project “will further enhance Union Street as it once again becomes the focus of business and leisure activity in Aberdeen”.

And the firm has already carried out work on the exterior, with the granite being given a deep clean last year.

An impression of how Caledonian House in Aberdeen will look with colourful lights along the exterior walls
Here is how it will ultimately look, with lights beaming colourful hues onto the granite to go with the Aurora theme. Image: Space Solutions

What are the plans for the Caledonian House building?

Documents submitted to Aberdeen City Council outline a £5m overhaul of the 45,000 square foot building, which was formerly Wood Group offices.

  • All five floors will be refurbished, with new toilet blocks and staff areas.
  • The ground floor space will be turned into a new open reception area, while the first floor is divided into separate office spaces.
  • This level will be given a “Category B” fit-out, which means that it will be turned into a “functional workplace complete with planting, flooring and furniture”.
Caledonian House Aberdeen covered with scaffolding
The building as it was being done up last November. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson
  • The upper levels will be stripped out, with only toilets and staff areas.
  • They will undergo a “Category A” fit-out, which means it’s ready to move into, but not quite at the advanced “Category B” stage.
  • All services will be stripped out and reinstated, while gas heating will be torn out and replaced with electric.
Caledonian House in Aberdeen
The office block overlooking the Granite Mile. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The SRE Group say the works should be complete by the end of the year.

New chapter for 50-year-old building

The site was previously home to the Majestic Cinema, which was demolished to make way for the office block in the mid-1970s.

The Majestic Cinema on Union Street in 1974
The Majestic Cinema on Union Street in 1974. Image: DC Thomson
A clipping from a newspaper article reading "THE CONTRACT for the building of an office block on the old Majestic Cinema site in Union Street, Aberdeen, has been awarded to Gilbert Ash (scotland) Ltd., Glasgow. The contract is worth £1,200,000."
The Evening Express covered the construction of the building in 1974. Image: British Newspaper Archive

When it opened it was largely occupied by the North of Scotland Telephone Area, and later by British Telecom.

Boss promises renewed Caledonian House will make ‘positive contribution’ to Union Street

John Grewar, who manages lettings for the SRE Group, told us about its bright future.

He said: “Aurora Aberdeen will deliver modern flexible office space, which is in short supply within Aberdeen city centre.

“We are fully supportive of the promotion of Union Street as the commercial centre of Aberdeen and Aurora will be a positive contribution to the city centre.”

The office block on Union Street
The city centre venue will be known as Aurora Aberdeen. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

‘Successful city centres need people’

The news will come as a boost amid efforts to breathe new life into the Granite Mile, which has been rocked by a string of closures in the last several years.

Russell Borthwick, the chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, has previously bemoaned a lack of decent office space in the city centre.

Aberdeen drone shot of Union Street.
The Granite Mile has been in trouble for some time. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

And Mr Borthwick hailed the Caledonian House cash injection as “further good news for Union Street”.

He added: “Successful city centres are built on one thing: People.

“People living there, people choosing to spend leisure time there and people working there.

“In recent years we have seen a number of high profile companies moving into high quality, modern workspaces including the Capitol, Silver Fin, Marischal Square.”

But new offices are not ‘solution’ in themselves…

Space at Caledonian House is now available to let.

However, Mr Borthwick says the costly revamp is only “part of the solution”.

He says the success of the high street will depend on bosses “ensuring their staff are present as often as possible – to provide the footfall businesses in the area need”.

It comes after complaints about hundreds of council workers doing their shifts from home, rather than at their city centre offices.

Russell Borthwick
Russell Borthwick wants to see the city centre bounce back. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Will more office workers bring Union Street a much-needed boost? Let us know in our comments section below

Aberdeen City Council recently voted to explore the idea of leasing out space in its “half-empty” Marischal College HQ.

Ryden and Hutcheon Mearns Real Estate have been appointed as joint letting agents, and the ground floor shops will be unaffected.

You can see the plans to transform the Caledonian House building on Union Street here.