Hearts owner’s building “at risk”

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By Cara Sulieman

AN ICONIC building owned by Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov has been branded “at risk” after sitting empty for three years.

The Scottish Civic Trust added the former RBS headquarters in Edinburgh city centre to its register after saying it was starting to show “some signs of deterioration”.

They also said there were now “signs of vandalism” at the building at 42 St Andrew’s Square.

Romanov’s investment company UBIG bought the former offices in 2007 and confirmed that they were pressing on with plans to develop the building and will be submitting planning application later this year.

Hotel plan dropped

The Lithuanian firm said that they had dropped plans to turn it into a luxury hotel and will instead upgrade it and reopen it as an office.

Vitalijus Vasiliauskas, UK projects director for UBIG, said the company was keen to start work as soon as possible.

He added: “We have a plan for the building.

“We have changed the original concept and are now proceeding, although not as fast as we would like. It will become offices now, not a hotel.

“A team of architects are preparing plans and everyone will be informed as soon as possible about our plans.”

The firm bought the building for £20 million in 2007, a price that many thought was inflated even at the peak of the property boom.

“Sensitive re-use”

City centre councillor Charles Dundas said: “You only have to look at the (Lauriston United) church on Lauriston Place to see the state buildings left in disrepair can get into.

“Everyone would want a building in such a prominent place to have a use, not least the owners.”

Stewart Taylor, director of business space at property firm CB Richard Ellis, said: “As far as the location and profile is concerned, you would have thought that hotel would be the best use.”

He suggested that the building being “at risk” might speed up any planning application.

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “There are no immediate concerns for the building as the register has indentified the building’s risk is moderate and its current condition as fair.

“We are currently awaiting proposals for the building and hope to see its sensitive re-use.”

The Buildings At Risk Register includes 29 A-listed buildings in Edinburgh, including the City Observatory on Calton Hill – which is due to be turned into a hotel.

A city council spokesman said: “The council will continue to monitor the condition of these nationally important buildings.”

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