£40m co-living project could end 15-year Merchant City planning stalemate

Glasgow city centre is to have a £40 million co-living building that will provide a gateway to the Merchant City and a focal point for regeneration of the East End, under plans submitted by developers.

Merchant Point, at the corner of the High Street and George Street, will include shops, offices and restaurants as well as 401 private-rent bedrooms for students and young professionals.

Developers are to set-up a £250,000 social entrepreneur fund, offering new businesses start-up funding and free use of office space and other facilities to help them become established.

Glasgow-based Structured House Group (SHG), which is behind plans, said it will provide a boost to the local economy as well as much needed accommodation.

SHG took over responsibility for developing the area after a 15 year-long attempt by Glasgow entrepreneur and publican Colin Beattie to turn the site into an Ashton Lane-style piazza of bars and restaurants came to nothing.

Members of Glasgow City Council’s planning applications committee will be asked to approve the 12-storey building on the site, when it meets in May.

Included in the plans is a commitment to retain a refurbished version of the Old College Bar, believe to be the city’s oldest, and to reproduce its current interior in an identical form.

The complex will also feature eateries and retail outlets as well as co-working offices where local businesses and university start-ups can utilise the space and raise start-up capital.

Craig Inglis, chief executive of SHG, said: “We have spent a long time working to get the look of this development right to ensure that it stands as a recognisable beacon of regeneration.

“Merchant Point will be a visible manifestation of the great work that is going on in the East End to help it reach its full potential. It will be a community in itself, with retail, leisure and business functions, all generating additional income for the area.

“An area of the building will be set aside as a free-to-use hub for young local businesses, dedicated to supporting interesting and exciting start-ups and university spin-out companies.

“Giving those fledgling businesses free office space and other facilities will help them through an important stage of their development.”

The plans include removing the interior of The Old College Bar and creating a snug that will give locals a perfect replica of the bar as a refreshed version that will allow it to continue with its long running license.

Mr Inglis added: “There has been a lot of publicity around this proposal because of the bar but that has overlooked what a fantastic addition this will be to the city centre and to the local economy.

“As a Glasgow-based company, we have enormous respect for the city’s built heritage and the important place The Old College Bar holds in its history.

“For that reason, we were happy to work with city council planners, universities and local businesses on a building which, if approved, will stand tall as an entrance to the city from the east.

Mr Beattie, owner of Oran Mor and the Lismore as well as The Old College Bar, has given his backing to the scheme.

Mr Inglis added: “There’s no disguising the poor fabric of the bar building as it stands, so we will have to replace it.

“Our amended plans aim to retain as much of the character and charm of the existing pub but to put it on a footing that’s appropriate for today to safeguard its future, hopefully for the next century.”

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