The project to restore Paisley’s iconic Russell Institute has reached a major milestone with Renfrewshire Council set to officially take ownership of the building and agree a long-term tenant.
The council is making good progress on plans to take over the Category A-listed former health centre in Causeyside St and turn it into a skills and employability hub.
The building needs substantial work to be brought back into use and its owners – the NHS – previously agreed to transfer ownership to the council if a use could be found.
Skills Development Scotland have now been given formal approval by the Scottish Government to sign a ten-year lease on the building as anchor tenants.
That allowed councillors on the Planning and Property Policy Board to this week give council officers the green light to conclude the lease to SDS and to finalise the transfer of ownership from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
And with the council having pulled together a £4m funding package to pay for the refurbishment, the plan to save one of the town’s architectural treasures is coming together.
The proposed skills and employability hub – due to open in summer 2016 – will provide flexible office space for up to 200 people, bringing new jobs to the area.
As part of the plan, employability services run by the council and its partners – based in Assurance House in Gauze Street – would also move to the Russell Institute.
A team of conservation architects were appointed earlier this year, and applications for planning and listed building consent were submitted in October.
Councillor Terry Kelly, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Planning and Property Policy Board, said: “It has been a complex process to line up all the pieces needed for this project to happen, but we are delighted to have reached this point.
“This will be good for the town for several reasons – one is that we are bringing new jobs into the area, with all the benefits that will bring for the local economy.
“Another is that the new skills and employability hub will be up and running at a time when big infrastructure projects will be taking place in the area, meaning there will be opportunities opening up for skilled and trained Renfrewshire residents.
“And lastly we have ensured a key piece of the town’s architectural legacy is preserved and kept in use for future generations.
“This year, the council unveiled ambitious plans to use the town’s heritage and cultural assets to drive a programme of change over the next decade.
“Paisley has a built heritage to be proud of – including the second-highest concentration of listed buildings of anywhere in Scotland – and the Russell Institute is one of the best examples of that.”
SDS’s chief executive Damien Yeates said: “Our relocation to one of Paisley’s landmarks is not taking us far from our current premises.
“However, the new location will allow us to collaborate even more successfully on local employability issues with our partners, including Renfrewshire Council, and continue to provide a full range of services for people in the area.”
The Russell Institute was opened in 1927, having been gifted to Paisley Burgh by Miss Agnes Russell, who wanted it to be used as a child welfare clinic.
The building is notable for the distinctive bronze and stone sculptures on the exterior walls.