After four years of painstaking renovation, the doors to the Highlands’ first creative hub are now fully open.
The former Inverness Royal Academy building in the Crown area of the city has undergone a massive transformation.
The renovation of the Victorian Category B-listed building is now complete and has cost in the region of £6 million.
Building steeped in history
The building served as Inverness Royal Academy from 1895 and was designed by architectural practice Ross and Macbeth.
The building was adapted many times before it ceased as Inverness Royal Academy in 1979. At the time, the school relocated to the Culduthel area.
For a short period, the building served as Culloden Academy as the construction of the school was undertaken, before latterly falling under the Inverness College banner as its Midmills campus.
Forres-based LDN Architects led the restoration project with phase one, completed in 2018, delivered by Robertson Construction.
Phase two of the project is now complete, providing affordable accommodation for 44 visual and applied artists.
A further 54 flexible workspaces are available for creative businesses, social enterprises and charities.
It has been managed by Bancon Construction.
‘It will allow people to enjoy the wonderful talent that exists in the Highlands’
Audrey Carlin, chief executive of Wasps, who will manage the building, said: “I am very proud of what has been achieved here.
“We are coming out of a pandemic but we feel that the future is really bright for creative businesses and creative people.
“I think it is wonderful to allow the people of the Highlands to come and enjoy what was here but has been returned to its Victorian splendour but for a new purpose.
“It will allow people to enjoy the wonderful talent that exists in the Highlands and to be able see that on a daily basis from here on.”
Provost of Inverness Helen Carmichael said: “When plans for this facility were originally developed in 2015 they were met with great excitement.
“Now that we approach the conclusion of the development and begin to welcome new enterprises to our city, we start to reap the fruits of our labours.
“Inverness Creative Academy will be a powerful and colourful asset for the Highlands and, in doing so, reignites the purpose of two of the city’s most important and historic buildings.”
Key features maintained
Stuart MacKeller of LDN Architects described the completion of the building as “the last and most important part of the jigsaw”.
He said: “This is an amazing building for Inverness, there are not many interiors like this.
“It was in quite a poor state so we had to really analyse the building to see what we could take away and what we could keep.
“Our whole approach to this project was to keep as much as possible, reuse as much as possible and take away the bad bits.
“It has been really pleasing and I am really happy with the end result.”
He added: “I describe this as the last and most important part of the jigsaw.
“This feels like that moment where you are starting to see the results of all that hard work.”
First tenants have already moved in
The first tenants to move into the newly-developed property are StrategyStory.
The organisation say they are dedicated to supporting local, national and international businesses with strategic development.
The firm is fronted by former BBC senior producer Kate Hooper and professor Donald MacLean.
Architectural practices, digital agencies, design studios and creative practices are to follow to join the multi-disciplinary community.
Mr MacLean said: “We have been looking for new headquarters and wanted to find a really vibrant, creative and stimulating environment that produces opportunities for collaboration.
“We can’t wait for the journey to begin.”
Former pupils marvel at renovation
Occupancy at Inverness Creative Academy overall has already reached 65%, with the final phase development only recently open for viewings.
Former pupils and locals were granted access last week, with David Henderson even donning his old school blazer.