Work has begun to redevelop a landmark retail site in Inverness amid hopes it could prompt a resurgence for the city centre.
The transformation of 7-17 Union Street, once home to department store Arnotts, is seen as a key component of its revitalisation and it’s hoped the project will be completed next year.
The development was approved in 2020 and is the biggest yo be undertaken in Inverness city centre since the extension of the Eastgate Centre.
Those involved say it will secure 200 jobs during construction and it’s believed the new businesses and homes that will take shape within will prove the catalyst for further investment.
Six new commercial units are being created, with four on Union Street and two accessed from Baron Taylor’s Street, where there will be a new entrance.
The development from Swilken Estates will preserve the listed buildings on Union Street, dating from 1863, and Baron Taylor’s Street, from 1892.
The retail development will restore features such as the original facade on Union Street and shopfront and will connect both streets.
The existing buildings at 33-41 Baron Taylor’s Street include one of the earliest steel framed buildings in Scotland.
The upper floors of the four-storey building will be repurposed to create 53 new apartments for long-term rental through Highland Council and Highland Housing Alliance, providing much-needed housing in the centre.
The project includes Inverness-based IBI Joiners as principal contractor and will also utilise the skills of a number of local tradesmen and contractors.
Swilken Estates’ Stuart Pender said: “We are excited to finally begin the construction phase of this major development, which is to provide a huge boost to the city and local economy.
“After what has been an unprecedented 12 months for the retail sector, we are delighted to be making such a significant investment in Inverness city centre.
“The building will be at the heart of the regeneration of this and the wider city centre area, including the adjacent Academy Street, and a revamped entry point to the centre from nearby Inverness rail and bus stations.”
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry said the start of construction is fantastic news for Inverness and the wider region.
“Such significant inward investment in the city centre, securing up to 200 jobs, is extremely welcome, particularly at this time.
“A project like this, which has real architectural merit – restoring a fondly thought of building to its former glory and revitalising Union Street and Baron Taylor’s Street – could be a real catalyst for further regeneration in the city centre area.
“The creation of a large amount of much-needed, high quality residential accommodation for long term rental is also extremely welcome.”
John MacBean, a partner at Graham and Sibbald – commercial agent for the project – added: “This is the largest retail redevelopment in the city centre in many years and will offer the flexibility to add something different to the established retail offer.
“These unique six new units over the ground and basement floors will all be self-contained, with their own dedicated access and will be suitable for a variety of uses.
“The quality of the units will add significantly to the Inverness city centre experience and we look forward to discussing this exciting opportunity with new and existing potential occupiers.”
Crown and City Centre Community Council welcomed the project, saying the new flats will boost city centre accommodation and benefit businesses.
“The development displays a welcome commitment towards revitalising the city centre, which is both welcome and commended,” it said.