City is on the cusp of a successful regeneration, with right level of ambition and creativity
Stewart Nicol, Chief Executive, Inverness Chamber of Commerce
It is always good to see construction work taking place in the city centre. While, admittedly, there is temporary disruption, seeing buildings being created or refurbished provides a sense of anticipation of when the scaffolding and screening will be replaced with gleaming new structures filled with people.
It is also an indicator of the confidence in the local economy and that business and jobs are on their way.
Right now in Academy Street major works are continuing that will help breathe new life into this key part of the city; Cairngorm Taverns are transforming the former AI Welders site into a street-level bar and first-floor restaurant, complete with historic mosaics. A modern retail and residential development is being built on a prominent site once occupied by the Farmfoods store. And the historic Blackfriars pub is being upgraded and rebranded as The Optimist, a fitting title with so much to look forward to.
Inverness Townscape Heritage Project has been instrumental in progressing these projects and others are in the pipeline. With councillors seeking funding from Sustrans Scotland for further design work on the transformation and to make Academy Street more pedestrian and cycle-friendly, I have high hopes this will shortly be a thriving, vibrant part of Inverness again.
But we have a chance to go further. Not far from the centre the Inverness Justice Centre is progressing, as are other developments such as the Ness Walk riverside hotel, being built by the Kingsmills Hotel.
Elsewhere, however, are sites that we need to address. Another delay has dashed hopes of building a hotel in Glebe Street, such a key part of the riverscape but which has now been derelict for nearly 20 years. The old Inverness College is being pulled down and the Royal Mail’s sorting office in Strother’s Lane is re-locating.
These are all prominent sites just outside the centre which provide a great opportunity to think big as a city and drive forward our ambition for the heart of the business community.
It may sound like I’ve already had a pint in The Optimist, but I’m very confident Inverness is on the cusp of a successful regeneration if we are ambitious and creative enough.