Housing transformation of Inverness site starts

Work has begun on a landmark development to reinvigorate the heart of Inverness and create new homes and business opportunities.

Over the next 16 months, the derelict building at 79 Academy Street, formerly known as Farm Foods, will be demolished and the prime site transformed into a new development of homes for rent to local people and commercial units.

The project to create new affordable city centre homes has been funded by a package including money from the Highland Council, the Highland Housing Alliance (HHA), the Scottish Government and the Highland City Region Deal.

Twenty-three of the 37 residential units, which will be mixture of 1 and 2 bedroom properties, will be for rent from the council and the remaining 14 will be mid market homes for HHA. The development will also include four small commercial units on the ground floor.

The project builds on the success of an earlier development on Academy Street headed by the Highland Housing Alliance that delivered 17 National Housing Trust mid-market rent homes along with 14 rented homes for the council in 2015. The council is also nearing completion of renovating the former Citizens Advice Bureau offices which will provide a further 4 new homes.

Chief executive of the Highland Housing Alliance, Gail Matheson, said: “Redevelopment of this prominent site on Academy Street follows on from our recent success both across the road at 92-94 Academy Street and Raining’s Stairs. Demand is high for good quality, well designed city centre living so it is exciting to be involved in this development. The collaborative approach to delivery involving our partners has proved to be successful, so we are delighted to be delivering this in conjunction with the Highland Council, Scottish Government and City Region Deal.”

During a visit to the site by the Provost of Inverness Councillor Helen Carmichael yesterday, it was revealed that the new name of the development will be Wyvern House in tribute to the building’s history. In the 50s and 60s it was the premises of the SMT Vauxhall Garage and one of its best-selling models at the time was the Wyvern car. A Wyvern is a legendary creature with a dragon’s head and wings that often appears in heraldry and features in many Celtic images.

The contractor is Morrison Construction and the work on site will be completed in early 2020.

The Provost said: “Academy Street is a historical gateway to the city centre and this project complements the work already underway to breathe new life into the area which has been crying out for regeneration and more homes. By creating quality new homes for local people in the heart of our city we will give it a vibrancy which has been missing. Good housing also contributes to stronger communities that benefit everyone living in them so this is really going to rejuvenate not just Academy Street but give a very welcomed boost to the whole of the city centre. I look forward to seeing the project progress and being back on site to welcome tenants into their new homes.”

Minister for local government, planning and housing, Kevin Stewart, said: “Making sure everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to our drive to make the country fairer and more prosperous. I am therefore delighted that work is now beginning on these 37 new homes, which have been supported by over £1.7 million from the Scottish Government. This project will not only enhance this part of the city, by providing high quality homes but also provide business opportunities – a wider benefit for the whole area.”

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