An Inverness contractor has spoken of the rising challenges of delivering a prominent inner city housing development as they aim to complete construction ahead of schedule.
IBI Joiners are currently in the midst of building a four-storey housing and retail complex on the site of the former New Start Highland charity shop.
The property at 99 church Street was torn down by Ark Estates to make way for the development, which will house 10 affordable one-bedroom properties and a purpose-built ground floor residential unit.
The Inverness-based contractors are scheduled to hand over the keys in November, however, on site builders are hopeful the works will be completed well ahead of schedule.
The build is one of two major city developments on their books, with works currently underway on the former Arnott department store on nearby Union Street.
Managing director Brian Innes spoke of how they have navigated the trials and tribulations dealt by the pandemic to make good progress one of their most challenging projects to date.
He said: “We are delighted to be involved in the project. Since coming back to site we have managed to make good progress.
“We are due to hand the project over in November and we are certainly on programme to do that but we will continue to hopefully push ahead and deliver it ahead of time.
“The biggest challenge is a mix of the site being so tight and the pandemic. The pandemic has caused things to be a lot slower so that has been a challenge.
“It’s a tight site with the access restrictions and buildings on both sides so it’s presented some challenges but the onsite team area doing great.”
Rising to the challenge
Mr Inness said like many contractors, obtaining the relevant materials to complete the works has been an uphill battle.
He added: “There also seems to be a fair shortage of materials across the board so that’s presented some challenges as well.
“Across the building industry as a whole, there seems to be a shortage. Whether that was caused by suppliers being closed during the pandemic or whether it’s a mix of closures and Brexit, we will have to wait and see but it’s been tricky.
“It’s certainly been challenging but enjoyable at the same time; as every project is.”
Works on the city centre property started in August last year following a string of delays imposed by Covid restrictions.
Onsite workers successfully demolished the former charity shop to rubble at the tail end of last year, marking the first major milestone for the city centre project.
Archaeologists conducted a thorough dig on the vacant site ahead of construction, uncovering some interesting antiquities which have now been recorded and preserved.
Five months on, the development is beginning to take shape, with significant interest already being shown by retailers for the vacant ground floor property.
Delighted William Gray, managing director of Ark Estates, said: “Principal contractor IBI Joiners are on schedule and the building is set for completion late summer 2021.
“We are really pleased with the level of interest in the retail unit. The last 12 months has been really challenging for the retail sector so to have such interest at this stage is a great sign for the city centre.”
Major city centre projects
The Church Street development marks one of two major projects currently underway by the Inverness firm in the area with works also ongoing at the former Arnotts and House of Fraser department store in Inverness.
Developers Swilken Estates will preserve the landmark site from 7-11 Union Street alongside listed properties on neighbouring Baron Taylor Street.
A total of six commercial units will be created on the ground floor with 53 new apartments for long term rental situated on the upper floors of the four-storey property.
IBI Joiners are principle contractors on the project alongside numerous local traders and contractors.
Inverness managing director Mr Inness said: “We are right now, we are coming from a joinery contracting background and the last couple of years we have ventured into principle contracting.
“This project on Church Street along with the 53 flat development on Union Street, it’s great that we are involved in two pretty major city centre projects. We are delighted to be involved in both and making a difference to housing in Inverness.”