Work to start on transformation of historic Inverness college

Work to transform a historic Inverness school and college into a new art studio and housing gets under way this week.

The Wasps Trust is creating a £5million studio at the Grade B-listed Midmills Campus.

Developer McCarthy & Stone is planning to build 53 private retirement apartments for over-60s at the site, while Highland Council will create 30 affordable homes for the over-55s.

The buildings, in the Crown area, housed Inverness Royal Academy from 1895 to 1979, before becoming a campus for Inverness College UHI.

It has been vacant since the college moved to its base at Beechwood in the summer of 2015, with councillors backing a plan to transform the site in August 2016.

A spokeswoman for McCarthy Stone said pre construction work for its part of the development would begin this week.

The Wasps Trust, a non-profit social enterprise based in Glasgow, will convert the main buildings into 39 artist studios and 50 desk spaces for creative businesses.

A design team has now been appointed by the trust. It includes LDN Architects, Forres, David Narro Assocs Civil and Structural Engineers, Forres, Irons Foulner Partnership Building Service Engineers and KLM Partnership, Inverness.

Audrey Carlin, senior executive director of Wasps, said: “This is an exciting project for Wasps, and will be our largest in the Highlands, following completion of smaller Wasps studio projects in Nairn , Orkney and Skye in the past 18 months.

“We are working with a steering group of locally based artists and makers to help us develop the project.

“Phase one will go onsite following wider site demolitions, in July 2017 and complete end of the year.

“Phase one is being supported by Highland Council, Highland and Islands Enterprise, Inverness City Heritage Trust and McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles Limited.”

The facility will provide studios for artists, creative workshops, offices for cultural organisations and social enterprises, studios for creative industries, a cafe, exhibition space, performance workshop, maker space and cinema.

It will also meet needs identified by HIE and the University of the Highlands and Islands, including graduate support initiatives, low-cost shared studios, incubator space, business support and mentoring, music rehearsal and community workshops, as well as space for supported creative industries.

Both the main building and the extension will be transformed into studio spaces, while other structures will be cleared to make way for new sheltered and affordable housing.

It is scheduled for completion in 2019.