MORE than 35 people turned out to hear about plans to create a new £4 million budget hotel in Academy Street in Inverness.
The public consultation about the development of 92-94 was hosted in the Ramada Encore Hotel in Academy Street by property leasing company Ark Estates (Scotland) Ltd, part of developers William Gray Construction.
The Inverness-based developer is hoping to demolish the existing listed buildings, next to the former AI Welders building, and build the 68-bedroom hotel over five floors.
If planning permission is granted, work would begin next summer and it is hoped the hotel, which would take 12 to 14 months to build, would be open in 2013.
Andrew Wright, conservation architect and heritage consultant, said numerous options for saving the buildings on the site have been looked at but they were beyond economic repair.
"A well designed new scheme on this site has the potential to revitalise the surrounding historic buildings and will bring much needed new life to this part of the conservation area," he said.
However, Sheila MacDonald, an Inverness Civic Trust spokeswoman, has already said Inverness does not need another hotel.
Internationally renowned architects, Keppie, is leading the project and has already consulted local businesses, the council’s planning department and the architectural review panel.
The proposal, which could change after the public consultation, is for the hotel to be five storeys, with the ground, first and second floor on the street front and the top two floors set back.
The ground floor of the building would be used to accommodate either an office, retail, a bar or restaurant.
In 2009, William Gray proposed to demolish the same buildings and erect 33 flats and two retail units.
However, councillors turned down the application because it failed to comply with the national policy and its own policy relating to the demolition of listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas.
But William Gray, the developers’ managing director, believes the new hotel will not only breathe life into the street but will also be good for the city’s economy.
The proposal has the potential to secure over 150 construction jobs during its development. The completed building would be likely to provide up to 55 hotel jobs after opening in 2013.