In less than a month’s time, councillors will make one of the most significant decisions in recent times affecting Inverness city centre.
The redevelopment of the Victorian Market and Fish Hall is of strategic importance to business and tourism operations and the next stage in its evolution will have an impact on so much around it.
Inverness Chamber of Commerce is part of the Victorian Market Stakeholders group and we are keen to see its upgrade and rebranding as a major attraction and bustling business hub again as quickly as possible.
Successful cities at home and abroad have thriving markets and we have an opportunity to make this currently uninspiring central space into something special. Its location in the heart of the city and near both rail and bus stations, which are being updated, means it should be a star in the commercial constellation, as well as a conduit for channelling shoppers and visitors between the riverside, the revamped castle and Town House and our historic Old Town which is also undergoing regeneration.
Work underway to give the market’s Academy Street facade a facelift is welcome, but we need some innovative and bold action to make the interior and business offering an attractive complement to the Eastgate Centre and out of town retail parks.
Our aspirations for the market and, therefore, the city centre, have to be far-reaching and in line with customer demands. I’ve witnessed bemused visitors trying in vain to enter the market in the evenings and on Sundays and also watched as tourists take pictures of the interior, but not stop at the shops.
Having high quality, small, independent outlets, showcasing the best of Highland food and drink, arts and crafts, in an attractive, covered central location would give Inverness a focal point that would be the envy of many cities.
The Victorian Market is a facility that is brimming with potential. An action plan outlining its reinvention was drawn up two years ago, so action is long overdue.
As a Common Good Fund asset, it should be delivering for the city, its people, businesses and visitors. It’s time to make that happen.