A FORMER Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters which was once owned by Vladimir Romanov is set to be transformed into a restaurant.
The St Andrew Square site will undergo a £60 million development and will also feature offices, flats and shops.
Plans for a revamp of the Register Lanes area will be unveiled at an exhibition today, showing how the 1940s banking hall will become an elegant dining room.
A link will be created between St Andrew Square and the planned St James Centre as a result of the project, developers said.
Chris Stewart, chief executive of Chris Stewart Group, said the project would bring “new vibrancy” to the area.
Mr Stewart said: “We hope to restore this magnificent banking hall as part of plans to bring new life to the Registers.
“We want to build upon the quality and drama of the city-centre environment with beautiful buildings, new businesses and a vastly improved public realm, and intend to submit our detailed planning application within the next couple of months.
“By creating a new vibrancy with buildings and public spaces that work together as part of one cohesive vision, this will be another distinctive area that enhances the special character of the city.”
Built in 1942, the banking hall is considered an excellent early example of modern neo-classical architecture, with an H-shaped floor plan and a dramatic circular top-lit entrance atrium. The high-ceiling hall also features finely-etched decorative windows depicting eight traditional industries of Scotland.
However, the marble-clad hall has fallen on hard times with its main features – two imposing Doric columns flanking the entrance – being stripped out in the 1970s.
Marion Williams, director of heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, said she trusted the Chris Stewart Group with the banking hall.
She said: “It’s been sitting empty for nine years or so, and nothing has happened until now. It’s a fantastic banking hall, and it will be open to the public if you can afford a cup of coffee.”
The building was once part of former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov’s business empire, but following the collapse of his company, Ukio Bankas, it has lain empty for several years and is on the ‘at-risk’ register of buildings.
Andrew Wright, an architectural historian working on the project, encouraged residents to attend today’s exhibition a view plans that would give the building “a new lease of life”.
Mr Wright said: “The banking hall is an architectural gem and it would be a major benefit to the city to see the principal spaces preserved and any damaged restored with this development.”
• The exhibition takes place at the former bank building between 3pm and 8pm today.