The keys to a newly refurbished £3million building set to provide an arts, culture and heritage hub in Oban were handed over by contractors yesterday.
The Rockfield Centre in the heart of the town is a former primary school which was saved from demolition by a community buyout.
Former owner Argyll and Bute Council intended to sell the B listed building to a local housing association for £1 to make way for flats for the elderly.
The renovation works were halted in March, however TSL contactors were back on site as soon as restrictions were lifted.
Oban Communities Trust took control of the building in 2015. The local people wanted to see it used for projects involving arts and culture; history and heritage; enterprise and education; and community wellbeing.
The outside huts have been used during the renovation of the main building for workshops, meetings and voluntary activities.
Some additional fitting out work is required in the main building, some of which will require additional funds.
Eleanor MacKinnon, transition operational manager for Oban Communities Trust said: “So much depends on how the pandemic recovery pans out. We are proceeding in a phased entry to accommodate the kit out plans with the first phase moving to tenant occupation in January.
“If all goes to plan early spring will include a move to some limited opening within the building alongside a mix of online and on site activity. However, we obviously have a lot of logistics to consider including recruitment of new staff and the delivery requirements to keep everyone safe. Meantime all our clubs and our programme will, in the majority, remain online.”
Andrew Pinkerton, capital works manager, said: “The building has big open airy rooms just waiting to be used by everyone.
“The capital works are completed. This gives us a blank canvas to move on to the next stage.
“For now the community charity shop remains in the hut by the car park and the shelter adjacent to the car park will continue to host the book bank, the food hub and other activities.
“We are very lucky to have many willing volunteers but there is always room for more whether helping in the charity shop, offering support to activities or, as was the case recently, decorating the shelter, making visors, or moving the generous donations of furniture and equipment for the centre.”
Ms MacKinnon added: “Despite the pandemic and all the challenges this brought with loss of earnings overnight, the centre remained an anchor for our community. Our staff and volunteers continued to work with telephone calls, deliveries and the distribution of monies via the Community Support Fund to a whole plethora of organisations supporting the Covid response.”
The centre continued to operate despite the site being closed and moved its clubs and activity online.
This meant a wide range of the community gained access to film, comedy and drama nights, writing and poetry sessions, arts sessions, camera club, children’s activities and “blether” sessions which have been so important in helping social isolation.