Commercial property: New life for Clydeside customs houses

Scotland has a wealth of custom houses '“ government buildings designed and built at ports around the country as places to process exports and imports and pay tax.They are no longer used for their original purpose but many are historic buildings and part of our rich architectural heritage.

Custom House,  Glasgow
Custom House, Glasgow

Retaining these buildings and finding new uses for them can be a challenge but different stakeholders have come up with some innovative solutions.

The Custom House in Glasgow has been sold this month to property development and investment company Artisan Real Estate Investors for a sum above the asking price of £1.75 million.

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It was sold by Shepherd Chartered Surveyors and Dougray Smith acting on the instructions of A O’Keefe and E Mackay of AlixPartners, administrators of Ashcap (CNC).

Custom House, Greenock

The listed building and adjoining land overlooking Glasgow’s waterfront has planning consent for a 14-storey, 209-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, conference and meeting rooms, and gym and leisure facilities.

The wider area, including Custom House Quay, Custom House Gardens and Carrick Quay, form part of a mixed-use development which will include retailers, luxury flats and a promenade with restaurants and bars, the aim being to create an extension to the city.

Presently vacant, Custom House, was last occupied by the procurator-fiscal.

In an outstanding conservation area, the building and its curtilage is category-A listed and will be retained.

Custom House, Greenock

Riverside Inverclyde, the organisation behind the economic regeneration of Inverclyde, has just unveiled the sympathetically renovated Custom House in Greenock with a view to attracting business tenants for the building.

The imposing building, which looks out across the Clyde to the Argyllshire hills, will be 200 years old next year.

“It really is Inverclyde’s jewel in the crown,” says Andrew Bowman, head of business investment and operations at Riverside Inverclyde.

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“And we wanted to make sure that we did the building justice with the refurbishment.” The restoration has taken four years and £4.1m to transform 18,000sq ft of productive business space, which has been let to companies such as Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions and PG Paper.

The final phase, which is now available to let, includes an impressive, pillared long room, the northern entrance and the elegant grand staircase.

In Leith, the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust has taken on the spectacular Custom House, built in 1812, and transformed it into a creative venue, as well as letting space to businesses.

Julie Forster, of the trust, says: “It is a huge building, we worked out that you could fit seven municipal swimming pools into the space so, as well as attracting creative industry tenants, we are carrying out a feasibility study and community consultation with a view to making the building sustainable and bringing in jobs to the area.

“Buildings such as this are held in great affection locally and the ongoing restoration is a great example of community support for a project.”

The Leith building is designed to suit any type of event from the grandiose to the quirky with two large main halls plus flexible space for studios, performing arts, meetings, conferences, offices, weddings, workshops, recitals, fundraisers, concerts, gallery and exhibitions, films or markets.