A LEADING Inverness hotel is set to expand its business after buying an office and retail block in a prominent city centre location.
The Glen Mhor Hotel has bought the four-storey building at the corner of Church Street and Baron Taylor’s Street for £1.7 million.
Owners Jon and Victoria Erasmus have developed their flagship hotel in Ness Bank over recent years to provide more bedrooms as well as adding luxury self-catering accommodation.
Their latest acquisition – deemed to offer redevelopment opportunities – comes as the city is experiencing a growth in the hospitality sector which will see hundreds of extra tourist bedrooms created in the next few years.
The building is located opposite one such project – the planned multimillion-pound transformation of the former Bridge House building into a hotel.
Plans have also been submitted to build a 180-bedroom hotel and car park at the former swimming pool site in Glebe Street while the Royal Highland Hotel in Academy Street is to undergo a major revamp.
Although it is not known exactly what the Erasmuses plan for the Church Street building, speculation is rife that a development linked to the hospitality sector is on the cards.
The sale was handled by joint agents Shepherd Chartered Surveyors and Graham and Sibbald.
Sandy Rennie, a partner in the Inverness office of Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, said any plans would enhance and complement the area.
"This sale represents another large disposal in the Inverness market and confirms the city’s burgeoning reputation as a desirable location for investors," he said. "This building is situated directly opposite the former Bridge House building which we recently sold to hotel development company Patio Hotels (Aberdeen) which intends to redevelop the building into a four-star hotel.
"This latest sale confirms the attraction of the city’s Church Street area to the buoyant leisure and hospitality sector following our recent sale of the nearby McEwen’s of Perth building to Bar Revolution."
The ground floor of the building is occupied by various shops and businesses including Rendezvous Cafe, the Barnardo’s charity shop and the Caledonian gift shop whose tenancies are protected.
The three upper storeys are occupied by offices, including the Department of Work and Pensions and the Employment Tribunal Service, on short-term leases. The building, previously owned by Highlands and Islands Properties, currently generates an annual income of £207,880.
Mike Smith, manager of the Inverness Business Improvement District, said if the future plans were confirmed to be hospitality-related it would be an "interesting" development.
"It goes to show the strength of Church Street and the adjacent areas as a thriving hospitality sector for Inverness," Mr Smith said.
"It is good to see the business community investing again in Inverness city centre."
Mr Smith said Jon and Victoria Erasmus had a good track record in developing accommodation and hospitality in the area.
The couple have invested heavily in their Inverness business in recent years, doubling the size of the Glen Mhor Hotel and Apartments in the five years between 2011 and 2016 through the purchase of a number of neighbouring guest houses.
They also received planning permission in September 2015 to build a glass-fronted brewery, restaurant and visitor centre beside the hotel, but they put the project on hold last year due to economic uncertainties.