An exciting new vision has been unveiled to turn the Victorian Market in Inverness into a “magnet” tourist attraction to rival the best indoor markets in Europe.
The council’s city area manager, Davis Haas, wants to convert the B-listed shopping centre into a venue like the English Market in Cork, Ireland. It champions local produce and boasts a mezzanine floor, something he says could be considered by the local authority.
And plans could also involve introducing late night dining and cafes and live entertainment – ideas featured in the council’s city centre development brief.
Business cases for possible future projects, with the support of existing retailers, could be drawn up within the next 12 to 15 months.
Tourism bosses welcomed the ambitious plans last night in the wake of years of dwindling footfall in the city centre caused by competition from out-of-town shopping.
Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol said: “If we are going to do this we have got to do it really well and we want a real impact for visitors. To aspire to be the best in Europe is a fantastic ambition.
“In terms of food and drink it’s one of the things the region has very strong performance in and we recognise Inverness and the Highlands have been world leaders like that, so something like that would be superb because it allows us to showcase what we have to offer.
“There are a lot of very significant positive developments that are under way and have been achieved in the city and this could be the next one.
“One of the things that needs to be fixed is the opening hours and opening into the evenings, particularly in summer.”
The market is now opening until 7pm on weekdays and 4pm on Sundays after councillors approved an action plan for the market in June, but not all businesses are openening this late.
Mr Haas, a member of the market stakeholder group, says the priority now is to effectively brand the market, which is owned by the Inverness Common Good Fund and managed by the local authority.
A new market manager has also been appointed to drive forward improvements and work closely with existing market traders.
Mr Haas added: “What we are focused on is turning Victorian Market into a magnet and attraction in its own right so people come to the city centre.
“It has the opportunity to grow and develop and become a hub to rival to any other very successful European market in any other city in Europe. That’s what we are going to strive for.”
Inverness Central councillor Bet McAllister, a member of the market stakeholder group, suggested having a tour guide as part of a late night wining and dining experience.
She said: “The market could open till 9pm or 10pm, like places do in Europe. Why can’t we do that? The world is changing and we have to move with it.
“We should strive for a strong daytime and evening economy.”