A MULTI-million pound plan to regenerate a landmark Art Deco building in Glasgow city centre has been welcomed by architecture experts, retail analysts and city leaders.

Former Rangers directors James and Sandy Easdale confirmed yesterday they have acquired the historic Watt Brothers building, on the corner of Bath Street and Sauchiehall Street, which has been vacant since the family-run firm fell into administration last year.

The McGill’s Buses tycoons reached a deal to save the listed building with Watt Brothers’ administrators, KPMG and are ploughing £20million into a potential plan to transform it into hotels and flats.

While acknowledging the loss of a firm that has had a presence in the city centre for decades, Sandy Easdale said it was their hope that their plan will help re-invigorate one of the city’s best known streets.

Mr Easdale said: “We believe the building has great potential for hotel and residential use and we’re already engaged with expert consultants to see what can be achieved. 

“It has a proud past and we are certain it will have an even brighter future."

Glasgow Times:

There is widespread consensus that high streets will be required to diversity to survive and the future landscape is likely to involve less shops. Retail experts agree that for the remaining shops to thrive, what is needed is a better balance of retail, leisure and hospitality.

Glasgow  City Council is investing millions in a project to improve the visual environment of Sauchiehall Street including new cycle lanes and the next phase will focus on the area, where the Watt Brothers building sits, between West Nile Street and Sauchiehall Avenue.

A major, multi-million pound plan is also underway to redevelop the historic Mclellan Galleries with offices, independent coffee shops, cafes and restaurants.

READ MORE: Uncertainty over £75million plan for BHS site 

Richard Muir, deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “While it was sad when Watt Brothers closed, it’s encouraging for Sauchiehall Street that this listed building will be put to use bringing people to this famous Glasgow thoroughfare.

“Sauchiehall Street has had a hard time of it recently with the three fires, and positive news is long overdue.”

An architecture specialist says the regeneration of buildings of interest, in projects like the Easdale brothers’,  may be the most effective way to save them from demolition.

Glasgow Times:

There was concern last week that another of Glasgow’s Art Deco treasures, the Rogano, could be lost after rumours began circulating that the restaurant was closing. 

However, owners Lynett Leisure, said it is their intention to re-open next year after a period of refurbishment.

Johnny Rodger, a Professor of Urban Literature at Glasgow School of Art said: “The Art Deco tradition in Glasgow is taking a bit of a battering. 

“The old Leyland garage in Salkeld Street is an abandoned ruin; the  future of the Rogano is uncertain; the Beresford hotel had its façade saved as a block of residential flats and so is no longer a public building. 

“There’s probably few options to leave Watt Bros as anything other than façade in current economic climate. 

READ MORE: George Square and City Centre streets re-design tender launched

“That preserves something of the city environment –and the interior was a bit of a clutter in the shop anyway – so an opportunity to redesign that could be no bad thing …but who would really want to live on that busy bus route corner of Hope Street?”

Glasgow Times:

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium Head of Policy, welcomed the plan  but said there is still work to be done to create a better economic landscape for businesses.

He said: “People need compelling reasons to visit and spend time and money on our high streets, but we must also recognise that incoherent public policy has exacerbated the situation. 

“Prior to the onset of Coronavirus business rates were at a 21-year high, making it more expensive to operate on our high streets, and costly and restricting parking deterred shoppers. “Action is needed to ensure businesses can thrive under these difficult conditions.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We are always interested in plans to invest in the city, and look forward to hearing more about any proposal to develop this city centre site.“