Progress being made on £2.6m business hub for Hawick

The old Almstrong's department store building in Oliver Crescent, Hawick.
The old Almstrong's department store building in Oliver Crescent, Hawick.

Architects have been appointed to take forward proposals for a £2.6m new business hub to be created at a former church and department store site in Hawick.

A feasibility study was undertaken for Scottish Borders Council to explore possible redevelopment options for the disused Almstrong’s building in Oliver Crescent and Teviot Crescent.

Now Edinburgh and Galashiels-based Aitken Turnbull has been appointed to design a business hub to include office space, shared meeting rooms and a cafe.

The plan for the building, announced by Scottish Government business minister Paul Wheelhouse last month, could create up to 25 jobs.

Although the plans have been generally welcomed, some reckon it would have been better for the Almstrong’s building to be bulldozed.

Honorary provost Watson McAteer believes demolition would have created a thoroughfare from Teviot Road up to Commercial Road, potentially yielding an increase in footfall.

The building, constructed in the mid-19th century, was once used as a church, with a plaque on the Oliver Crescent entrance still being visible.

Located in a conservation area and listed by Historic Scotland, it was sold and partially demolished in 1960 and reopened as Arthur Armstrong’s department store in 1962, later becoming Almstrong’s.

In more recent years, it has been derelict and boarded up.

Back in 2006, a planning bid was approved to build 19 flats on the site, but it came to nothing. A few years later, another scheme for townhouses also floundered.

The aim now is for the site to be transformed to assist local business start-ups by providing “accessible and flexible office spaces”.

A council report says: “The addition of shared meeting rooms and a cafe will encourage social interaction between businesses providing the opportunity for the new and rapidly developing companies to come together and grow.”

The vacant building, adjacent to a former church hall, has had a chequered history of late, culminating in it being designated a building at risk in September of last year.

At the time, a council report said: “External inspection finds the building in deteriorating condition.

“The Teviot Crescent roof pitch is now netted, with the ridge line now noticeably uneven and dormers appearing to be sinking inwards.

“Windows are now mostly blocked or boarded over.”

Back in July 2011, the building was being marketed for sale by Graham Sibbald, with offers of £250,000 requested, but by April of the following year a guide price of just £65,000 was being quoted by Future Property Auctions.

The new project will see a contemporary office building constructed to replace the previous department store entrance building in Oliver Crescent, and the adjacent church hall and terraced buildings accessed from Teviot Crescent will be retained and altered.

The council says the “project will not only provide new job opportunities in Hawick but will hopefully act as a catalyst for further property redevelopment and inward investment in the town in the future”.