A Georgian architectural masterpiece in one of the most dramatic locations in Scotland has been restored to its former glory, and the hunt is now on for a suitably impressive new occupant for the building.
Riverside Inverclyde, the organisation behind the economic regeneration of Inverclyde, has just unveiled the beautifully and sympathetically renovated Custom House in Greenock and plans to attract a further national or global player to be its headline tenant.
The imposing building, which looks out across the Firth of Clyde to the Argyllshire hills, will be 200 years old next year. It has seen the tides of history wash past the eponymous quayside which it dominates.
The classically-proportioned building, designed by architect William Burns, was home to the vigilant assize men who policed Scotland's burgeoning trade with the world. It witnessed the rise and fall of the tobacco, sugar and shipbuilding industries in the town.
It also looked out over the desperate bustle of naval traffic as warships filled the safe haven of the Firth in two world conflicts, and the quayside played host to the Queen as she joined Britannia for her annual summer cruise of Scottish waters.
“It really is Inverclyde's Jewel in the Crown,” said Andrew Bowman, Head of Business Investment and Operations at Riverside Inverclyde, “and we wanted to make sure that we did the building justice with the refurbishment.”
The impressive restoration has taken place in four phases over four years and £4.1 million has been spent on transforming 18,000 sq ft of productive business space, which has been eagerly snapped up by major companies such as Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions and PG Paper, as well as other SMEs. An initial £1.1m was spent to secure the 175 year lease of the building.
The final phase included the white, pillared Long Room, the northern entrance and the elegant Grand Staircase. It is to the Long Room, a stunning space which is flooded with light that Riverside Inverclyde wishes to attract a world class client who will provide a further boost to local employment.
“We are conducting a global search,” said Mr Bowman, “as well as offering some particularly attractive incentives. The Long Room, which is fully Cat6 cabled, could provide MD and boardroom space as well as an extensive open-plan office space.
“The new occupants will also benefit from considerable reliefs for locating in Inverclyde, which is a Tier 2 Scottish Enterprise zone, attracting a potential 30% credit towards capital expenditure through Regional Selective Assistance grants.”
The completion of the Custom House transformation is the latest milestone for Riverside Inverclyde, which has breathed new economic life into many projects in the area. Over £70m has been committed to the area by the company over the past 10 years. The Custom House project was also supported with £650,000 from the Scottish Government.