A historic Aberdeen hospital building is set to undergo a £10 million refurbishment and reopen as a top-class hotel.
Plans were approved last year to turn four A-listed buildings at Woolmanhill into a 52-bedroom hotel along with 42 residential apartments.
Glasgow-based hospitality firm G1 Group has been named as the occupiers of the site with plans unveiled to open the hotel under the famous Scotsman brand.
The ambitious proposals would see the former hospital turned into a “high quality boutique hotel” including bedrooms, a bar, restaurant, jazz club and cinema club experience, plus a range of function areas for weddings and private functions.
In 2017, the firm bought the five-star Scotsman Hotel to carry out a multi-million-pound refurbishment of the renowned Edinburgh landmark.
Speaking at a meeting of the Aberdeen City Council licensing board, solicitor Archie MacIver, representing the firm, said: “The company has been involved in Aberdeen for the last 17 years and has hotel premises already in the city.
“What’s proposed is something quite different.
“Within the last couple of years the company acquired the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh.
“They have been in the process of upgrading that.
“What’s proposed here is the second Scotsman, it will trade under the Scotsman brand.”
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Mr MacIver said the firm is “exceptionally good” at bringing “high quality buildings to life”, including The Corinthian Club in Glasgow and the Ghillie Dhu in Edinburgh.
He said: “We have a company that’s very skilled in bringing buildings back to their original grandeur.
“We’re talking about something like a £10m refurbishment.
“It is heartening, given the problems in the oil industry which has had an effect on the local economy, that someone is willing to come along and put their money where their mouth is.”
The firm presented its plans to the board as part of a bid for a licence to serve alcohol at the site.
Yesterday their application to sell drink from 10am to 3am on Fridays and Saturdays was backed unanimously by councillors.
A document said the luxury hotel would be finished to the “same high and exacting standard” as the Edinburgh site.
It stated there were plans to turn an old brick vaulted basement area discovered at Woolmanhill into a late-night jazz bar.
It added: “Due to its close proximity to several key points of interest including His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, and the recently approved development of Union Terrace Gardens, we feel there is a real opportunity here to contribute to the attraction and retention of footfall in this area of the city; creating a real culture and leisure hub which is reflective of the exciting changes happening in Aberdeen.”
Aberdeen property developer Charlie Ferrari, whose firm CAF Properties lodged the plans, previously told the Evening Express construction could start in 2020.
Licensing board member Councillor Martin Greig said: “Presumably the business has carried out research to determine if this kind of luxury hotel is needed in the city.
“The Scotsman Hotel has a great reputation and it would be good to have a quality venue in this historic building.”
Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “We welcome sustainable investment in the region that adds greater range to the portfolio of accommodation on offer to business and leisure visitors alike.
“Achieving the £1 billion visitor spend target by 2023 will be aided by projects that attract high-spending visitors.”
The firm’s first city venue was The Palm Court Hotel, which it bought in 2001.
The firm also bought Greyfriars Church on the city’s Broad Street, with plans to turn it into a restaurant and bar, and also owns the Illicit Still and old Boozy Cow site.
NHS Grampian declared Woolmanhill, where the original Aberdeen Royal Infirmary stood, surplus to its requirements in 2013, with all its facilities relocated elsewhere.
Building of the original hospital, to a William Christall design, was begun in 1740. But Archibald Simpson, Aberdeen’s most famous architect, designed the Simpson Pavilion in 1833.
After the First World War, there was an urgent need to increase the hospital facilities and Woolmanhill could not accommodate the expansion needed.
The Foresterhill site was bought and general use there dwindled until 2013.
Aberdeen historian Diana Morgan described the buildings at Woolmanhill as some of the city’s “most iconic”.
Historic Environment Scotland called the site a “rare example” of a hospital that has not been significantly altered since the late 19th Century.