A “monstrosity of a building” in the heart of Inverness is finally to be torn down – with demolition work expected to start by the end of the summer.
The eyesore former Inverness College building in the city’s Longman Road has lain empty for three years, since the new £50 million UHI campus opened at Beechwood.
The Press and Journal understands a contractor is now in the process of being appointed for the demolition work, meaning the land will soon be marketed for sale as a vacant site to most likely be used for commercial use – providing a future jobs boom for the city.
Bids could be taken by the end of the year, with construction work on any proposed new building potentially starting as soon as next summer.
Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol was last night delighted at the news.
He said: “It’s a key site and entrance to the city, so to see this development is very positive.
“There are going to be businesses going in there employing lots of people.
“It really is a monstrosity of a building and has been made worse as they have had to make it lock tight, barricading up a huge block of concrete.
“It’s not a good impression to give to people entering or leaving the city.
“We need better and need to see a much more positive building and use of that site.
“We have to be encouraging developers to come in with something that is different.”
Mr Nicol added that the completion of the new £23m justice centre will further sharpen the contrast in landscape to what is currently there.
The car park area at the college site has already been sold to the Scottish Courts Tribunals Service to make way for the development, which is expected to be finished by early 2020.
The justice centre will be the first of its kind in Scotland and will provide space for six courtrooms, allowing the sheriff court to move out of Inverness Castle.
Last week Highland Council also confirmed the purchase of the eyesore concrete blocks in the city’s Upper Bridge Street as part of the castle’s redevelopment plans to help boost tourism across the north.
But a purely commercial use is much more likely to be adopted at the 1960-built former college campus, according to a source.
Inverness College UHI, the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Futures Trust have been working together to look at options for the disposal of the building.
A source said a contractor had been appointed and that they are currently carrying out “exploratory work” on the site and that “demolition will happen in the very near future,” acknowledging this could be by the end of summer.
Outline planning permission could also be put in place at the site to encourage a developer to come in.
Inverness Millburn councillor Ian Brown also welcomed the news of the impending demolition, saying: “It’s especially welcome with the justice centre also getting delivered.
“It will mean the whole (Longman) corridor is being redeveloped.
“It’s a building which has shown its age and it will be good for jobs in the construction industry as well.”
Professor Chris O’Neil, principal and chief executive of Inverness College UHI, said previously they look forward to progress being made on the site.
The imminent demolition of the former Inverness College building has emerged just days after Highland Council completed the sale of the eyesore Bridge Street buildings in the city centre.
The £5.2 million purchase is part of the Inverness Castle redevelopment plans, which council leader Margaret Davidson said would pave the way for a new tourism “gateway to the Highlands.”
Director of development and infrastructure, Stuart Black, said previously the options being put to the public for the top level buildings will be to either make “minor cosmetic improvements” to the existing buildings, refurbish certain parts of the structures or demolish what is there and start from scratch.
Residents in Inverness – and across the Highlands – will be consulted on what they want to see happen at the site containing the 1950s and 60s office blocks, once described by Anglo-American travel writer Bill Bryson as “sensationally ugly”.