The developers behind Inverness’s award-winning Raining’s Stairs flats have set their sights on a new city space.
Ark Estates have outlined plans to demolish the existing New Start Highland charity shop on Church Street to make way for a new four-storey accommodation block.
The structure – designed by Colin Armstrong Architects – would house 10 one-bedroom flats with a retail unit located on the ground floor facing onto the busy city street.
The announcement comes as the Highland’s homeless charity prepares to move to their new home after seeking more adequate premises elsewhere in the city.
Chief Executive James Dunbar explained: “The building has done us really well but it is tired and it’s time for a new purpose, an ideal purpose.
“We are delighted to be giving up what is a property which is no longer fit for retail space and we are absolutely delighted to see that being turned into accommodation.”
He added: “There is a massive need for it in the Highlands and we are just really supportive and excited to be seeing what is an old and tired building getting turned into a suitable purpose.”
The existing property – 99 Church Street – is formed and conjoined from three separate buildings, creating a mix of floor levels and ceiling heights internally.
Because of this, Ark Estates say conversion is not viable.
Managing director William Gray said: “We are excited by the prospect of developing the site at 99 Church Street to provide much needed affordable housing for the city centre and a more usable purpose-built retail space.
“The current building, which actually comprises three conjoined structures, has been variously altered over the years – leaving a complex layout of floors and half floors with limited access – making it unviable for practicable conversion.”
These proposals follow on from the success of their Raining’s Stair’s development which won the coveted Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) 2019 award.
The landmark development was constructed on the former derelict land, named after John Raining, the founder of the school which was built at the head of the Stairs in 1747.
It features 16 new one- and two-bedroom flats for affordable rent and mid-market rent as well as a small retail unit.
The developers are now seeking full planning approval from the Highland Council for this latest venture to help breathe new life into the area.
Consent was previously granted by the local authority for a six-storey development on the site.
Developers have designed the plans to fulfil the criteria laid out I the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan, the Inverness City Centre Development Brief and the Highland Historic Environmental Strategy.
Mr Gray added: “The proposed development will comprise a retail unit of traditional proportions and design, while the upper floors will reflect the floor proportions of the more traditional buildings in Church Street. Window proportions and levels will also respect the local historical pattern.”