THE landmark former Watt Brothers department store building in Glasgow has been purchased by Greenock businessmen Sandy and James Easdale in a rejuvenation plan expected to cost more than £20million.
The historic B-listed premises — situated between Sauchiehall Street and Bath Street in the city centre — have been vacant since the chain fell into administration last year.
The McGill’s Buses tycoons reached a deal to save the 80,000-square-foot art deco building with Watt Brothers’ administrators KPMG.
Future planning for the building is already underway, with a mixed-use development comprising hotel and residential accommodation the likely option.
Early estimates suggest it will cost at least £20million to transform the premises and so aid the revival of Sauchiehall Street.
The project brings the current property and construction developments being led by the Easdales to around £400million.
Sandy said: “This is a landmark building loved by generations of Glaswegians. It was sad to see the store close last year but when the opportunity arose to purchase the building and redevelop it for the future then we knew we had to take it.
“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.
“This project will play an important part in reinvigorating this part of Sauchiehall Street and contributes to almost £400million of property and construction developments we currently have underway as a family.”
The northern end of the building was initially constructed in 1914 and latterly extended into the southern building in 1929,the two linked at second and third floors by an archway over Sauchiehall Lane.
A third building on Sauchiehall Lane was added to the ownership in the 1980s. The property has been in department store use since initial construction.
James said: “The building has more than a century of history and tradition, and benefits from brilliant art deco features. This is one of the attractions of the building and will play a part in its rejuvenation.
“Whilst many are shying away from investing during the pandemic, we are very optimistic that the economy will bounce back in due course. Our transport businesses remain hugely important to us but investing in property and construction is a real focus at a time when new opportunities are constantly presenting themselves.”
Among the other major projects the Easdales are driving forward are a £250 million, 850-home housing development at a 130-acre site in Glenrothes.
The former IBM plant at Spango Valley, Greenock, is currently subject to a planning application for a £100million mixed-use masterplan which would include up to 450 new homes, alongside areas of new employment, leisure, community and retail use.