A giant Aberdeen office block could be turned into 140 new homes as part of a “major” development for the city centre.
City councillors will scrutinise plans by Telereal Trillium for the Greyfriars House building on Gallowgate at the authority’s pre-application forum next Thursday.
The complex opened in the 1970s and the Department of Work and Pensions had a base there until January but the building has lain empty since.
The firm now wish to demolish the structure and erect a maximum of 140 flats in its place, though there are three options on the table – the others for 90 or 120 flats.
Councillors will not be asked to make a final decision on the site but will look at the scale of the plans.
If the company is successful, it would bring a significant amount of new homes to the heart of the city.
One of the council’s key aims, through its 25-year regeneration masterplan, is to improve the vibrancy of its streets, adding residents and boosting shops, restaurants and the nighttime economy.
Before the oil and gas downturn, office space in the city was at a premium with multiple new developments completed.
But following the crash there is now an over-abundance of space with firms downsizing or moving out.
Many former offices in the city’s west end are now vacant, with councillors considering policies of encouraging them to be returned to housing.
A report to councillors said that given a new council policy for the city centre, the developers would not be expected to build any affordable housing among the units.
That relies on Telereal Trillium submitting a full planning application before June 30 next year and having the development signed-off prior to December 31.
If that is not accomplished, a requirement for 25% affordable housing may be applied.
The report reads: “The application site comprises a three-storey and basement ‘C’ shaped vacant office building and surface car park situated on the eastern side of Gallowgate.
“It lies to the north of a late 20th Century flatted development on Littlejohn Street and immediately to the south of the Gallowgate public car park.
“All three options propose to retain the existing vehicular access taken off Gallowgate which serves a surface car park to the rear of the building.
“An element of car parking is proposed to be retained in all three options, with a landscaped communal amenity area provided on a deck built above the car park.”
Sam Rosenkranz, asset manager at Telereal Trillium, said earlier: “We are pleased to be taking forward a redevelopment proposal which accords with the city council’s planning policy of encouraging city centre living.
“We do not underestimate the work involved to re-purpose a site for residential use in the city centre.”
Council wants more people in city centre
A key element of the council’s 25-year vision for the city centre is encouraging people to live there.
Facing heavy traffic, parking challenges and high rents – many have not looked at the centre as a place to set up home.
But in recent years the city, and wider region, has been hit hard by the downturn in oil and gas.
There are now vast amounts of empty office space once leased by firms that have either downsized, folded or moved premises.
While the impact of that could not be called positive, the downturn has also led to cheaper rental prices for homes in the city and particularly in the centre.
As part of a council drive, a controversial new affordable housing policy was approved by the local authority last year.
The ruling Aberdeen Labour, Conservative and independent alliance implemented a scheme whereby developers building up to 50 homes in the city centre do not have to pay a 25% affordable housing contribution.
Administration leaders have argued this will encourage developers to build units and encourage people to live in the centre.
Opposition SNP councillors have raised fears it is “letting developers off the hook” with their obligations.
Following the policy, Dandara applied to change its planning permission for the Triple Kirks site so that the 342-flat development is not solely for students.
Grants are also available for building owners to renovate historic properties.