Grant award signals new chapter for historic Inverness landmark

The Inverness Townscape Heritage Project has today (Thursday 26 April), announced a grant award of £960,000 towards the costs of the full restoration of the former AI Welders Building at 96 Academy Street.

This important B listed building is owned by Cairngorm Taverns Ltd, who have ambitious plans to fully restore its fabric and heritage detail including the unique decorative mosaics.  Their proposals will bring all floor space back into sustainable economic use, to provide a Highland showcase in the city for Cairngorm and Loch Ness Breweries. 

pixThis landmark development represents the first major investment by the Inverness Townscape Heritage (TH) Project, which is a partnership regeneration project focusing on Academy Street.  The TH Project is a collaboration of funding partners including Inverness City Heritage Trust (ICHT), Historic Environment Scotland (HES), The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and it is coordinated and led by Highland Council.

The former AI Welders Building has always had a strong place in the affections of Inverness residents, and its restoration has been a high priority objective for the TH Project.

Cllr Richard Laird Chairs the Inverness TH Partnership, he commented:

“We are delighted that Cairngorm Taverns are committed to the restoration and use of this historic building, and they are to be commended for their commercial vision to undertake this major development.  This project alone brings over £2m of welcome investment, and will give a big boost to the regeneration of Academy Street. 

“The TH Project is an excellent example of what partnership working can achieve. Highland Council has worked closely with Inverness City Heritage trust and jointly enabled extra investment for such key projects to be secured from Heritage Lottery Fund. Given the current climate of increasing budgetary pressures throughout the public sector this is welcome additional investment toward a key project which will drive forward the Councils regeneration and revitalisation of the city centre.”

2018 marks 125 years since 96 Academy Street was built, originally the flagship head office of the Rose Street Foundry and Engineering Company, which changed to AI Welders in the 1960s. The industrial heritage of the building is portrayed in the four mosaics depicting foundry men at work, which are set within arches on the Academy Street and Rose Street elevations of the building.

Following AI Welders move from the building in 1988, the ground floor has operated as a pub, with the upper levels remaining vacant for the past three decades. 

Chairman of Inverness City Heritage Trust (ICHT) Cllr Jimmy Gray welcomed the proposals:

“The AI Welders Building is one of the most important buildings for local residents in Inverness. Situated at 96 Academy Street this fine building was designed by Highland architect Alexander Ross in the French Renaissance style. It is a popular heritage landmark for Inverness locals, many of whom have strong connections with it.  As the current building condition continues to deteriorate, it has been a major development objective for ICHT. The Trust has been instrumental in working with the Highland Council and HLF to secure a funding package for the full heritage restoration, which will preserve this important building for many future generations.”

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said:

“ Investing National Lottery money to revitalise this historic building which lies at the heart of the Inverness, will not only make the area more attractive to live, visit and invest in, it will also provide jobs and training opportunities for local people. We are delighted to be able to support this project as a mark of our on-going commitment to preserving Scotland’s heritage in a way in which is pertinent to the needs of today.”

The shareholders of Cairngorm Taverns Limited have been involved in a number of successful renovations of historic buildings and are now looking forward to moving ahead with 96 Academy Street. They understand that for any renovation to be successful over the longer term it is important that the building is not just physically renovated but given life and a sustainable future. Cairngorm Taverns is pleased to be working closely with Cairngorm Brewery to create a sustainable future for this unique building, a future built on its industrial heritage and hopefully resulting in a building which the people of Inverness will be proud of. CTL and CBC’s vision is to create a building which will be successful in its own right, will raise the profile of both the Cairngorm Brewery and the Loch Ness Brewery in Inverness whilst complying with one of Cairngorm Brewery’s founding principles, namely the creation of permanent meaningful employment opportunities in the Highlands.

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Sam Faircliff, Managing Director of Cairngorm Brewery Company said:

“This is a really exciting project that will restore an iconic building back to its former glory in addition to creating a superb venue as a flagship for Cairngorm and Loch Ness Breweries to serve fantastic beers alongside great food, all served in a truly historic setting.  We would like to thank the funding partners for their support.”

25 Apr 2018
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