TWO new major multimillion-pound hotel developments are being planned for Inverness city centre, the Courier can exclusively reveal.
The owner of the city’s upmarket Kingsmills Hotel has bought Highland Council’s former service point office block at the top end of Church Street and plans to transform it into a high quality hotel with a £5.5 million investment.
Tony Story said he will be seeking planning permission to create a four-star hotel fronting on to Church Street, but with riverside views from the north elevation looking over Bank Lane.
Elsewhere in the city centre, the derelict former swimming pool site in Glebe Street also looks set to be transformed into a major hotel after Vastint Hospitality took over the site from Tulloch Homes.
It is understood the riverside location is set to become a Moxy Hotel, the new lifestyle brand of international chain Marriott Hotels.
Mr Story, who is currently behind a £6.4 million development of the former Maple Court Hotel, yesterday outlined his plans for Church Street.
A planning application will be lodged shortly for the 80-room hotel which will involve adding a fourth storey to the sizeable office block. The hotel, which has the working title The Bridge, could create up to 65 jobs.
He said: "I want it to be something cutting edge, new and different. Many of our deluxe rooms will have stunning views of the river."
This latest development will represent a total investment by the hotelier of £35 million in Inverness when the acquisition of the Kingsmills 10 years ago, and subsequent major expansion there is all taken into account.
He added: "We have had preliminary discussions with the planners about Church Street and they have been very positive about it all so far.
"Our intention is to have deluxe rooms along Bank Lane with river views, and slightly smaller versions looking onto a cityscape."
"Inverness is crying out for good quality accommodation and there is a huge international market especially on the back of the golf industry and now North Coast 500 road trip route."
Chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce Stewart Nicol said the prospect of two new hotels was "fantastic and really positive for the city centre."
"Both developments are indicative of how developers are seeing the hotel industry as a cornerstone of the city economy."
Inverness Business Improvement District (Bid), manager Mike Smith said: "We welcome the investment from entrepreneur Tony Story to purchase the building and develop something which will be a major new four-star hotel in the city centre.
"I hope that the Glebe Street site is developed too.
"I have lived in Inverness for 15 years and that site has been derelict for that time."
A successful planning application was lodged by Tulloch Homes two years ago to build 60 two bedroom apartments there at Glebe Street. Work on the new housing was expected to begin early next year, but demand for the site from "several hotel chains" as a result of the city’s growing demand for tourist accommodation, sparked a rethink from the house builder.
Chief executive George Fraser said: "Previously there were plans to build a hotel at Glebe Street, and planning consent was given for such, and the completion of this deal will enable this to happen.
"It is apparent Inverness requires additional hotel accommodation which will help drive the growth of the local economy and with the site situated in the city centre it will also add to the city centre regeneration."
Meanwhile the search is on for a developer to create a 120 bedroom business class hotel on Inverness Campus.