New lease of life for former city bank building
Earlier this week Central ward members Councillors Janet Campbell and Donnie Kerr marked the completion of the first property in the Highlands to benefit from grant and loan funding from the Empty Properties Initiative together with grant funding from the Inverness City Heritage Trust. The property, a former Royal Bank of Scotland branch on Tomnahurich Street, had lain vacant for a number of years and was brought back into use by ARK Estates.
ARK Estates purchased the property in July 2013 and were successful in their application for funding from the Empty Properties scheme and Inverness City Heritage Trust. The monies enabled the refurbishment to commence. The property, now named Tomnahurich House, has been converted into three residential flats which will now be leased to the Council for a period of fifteen years. Many of the original interior architectural features have been preserved and will offer high quality, city centre accommodation.
Speaking after having a tour around the new accommodation Councillor Campbell said: “I am happy to see an empty property brought back into use for city centre living. The building shows innovative use of space and it is finished to a high standard. The developer has ensured that many of the original features are retained and these compliment many of the neighbouring Victorian properties.”
Councillor Kerr added: “As a local Councillor, I welcome the renovation of the old bank buildings into the residential flats development. I hope that this development, where The Highland Council’s Housing Services have worked in conjunction with local developer William Gray, will lead to many more joint ventures with the private sector which will increase the number of leasing properties available in the centre of the City”.
Managing Director of ARK Estates Willie Gray said: “We are delighted to have been able to restore the building back to its former glory and, I am sure that anyone going in to live there over the next few years will find it to be a great spot. Equally I think that the commitment that is made by the Council to find the financial support to make small developments such as this possible is hugely important to the city centre”.
The Council successfully bid to the Scottish Governments £4.5m Empty Homes Loan Fund and the Council had previously agreed that this funding would be matched by £400,000 from its Private Sector Housing Grant (PSHG).
A condition of the Scottish Government funding is that the property the property must have lain vacant for at least six months and will be used as affordable housing for a minimum of five years.
Funding can be used:
• To assist owners to bring their property up to a suitable standard, or
• To assist the Council or a partner organisation to purchase properties and bring them up to a suitable standard.
The Council have a number of grants and interest free loans for owners of properties. For more information on funding from the Empty Homes Initiative, please contact Paula MacPherson on (01463) 702774; firstname.lastname@example.org and for information on funding opportunities from Inverness City Heritage Trust, please contact Alison Tanner on (01463) 785004; Alison.email@example.com