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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 11:22 GMT
Makeover plans for city landmark
Great Eastern Hotel
The building has lain empty for four years
An infamous Glasgow landmark looks set for a dramatic transformation.

The Great Eastern Hotel in the city's east end is probably best known as a hostel for hundreds of homeless men.

It closed in 2001, but it is hoped that plans to convert the Victorian listed building will breathe life back into the Duke Street area of the city.

Blueprints have been drawn up to give the Grade B building, designed by Charles Wilson, a new lease of life as a 10m complex of luxury flats.

Money from the sale of the land will be put back into the community.

It's an extraordinarily important building with a profound social history
Neil Baxter
Glasgow Building Preservation Trust
More than 40 housing association properties will be built on the site. The project is aimed at playing a vital part in the renovation of the district.

Gail Sheriff of the Milnbank Housing Association - which is developing the land - said it would have a massive impact.

"It's pretty run down and we are very close to the Merchant City, which has undergone massive transformation in recent years," she said.

'Heartbreak hotel'

"But this side of High Street has been neglected and we anticipate it will make a big difference physically and we'll be providing good quality housing."

Plans include keeping many of the building's original features.

The imposing structure, which has dominated the area's skyline since it was built in the 1840s, has lain empty since it closed four years ago.

Artist's impression of new luxury flats
An artist's impression of the new luxury flats

It started life as a cotton spinning mill, became a hostel for working men in 1900s - when it was named the Great Eastern Hotel - and was later turned into a homeless hostel, dubbed Heartbreak Hotel.

Many men spent years living in its seven-feet square cubicles.

Neil Baxter, of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, said the building holds significant cultural value.

"It's an extraordinarily important building with a profound social history," Mr Baxter added.

He said some people may have "a jaundiced view" of the building because it used to house homeless people.

'Crawling the walls'

"But they should look afresh, as it's one of the grandest buildings in Glasgow, which deserves to be celebrated and sympathetically reused," he added.

Recalling his memories of the Great Eastern, a former resident said it was horrible.

"The lice were crawling round the walls," he said.

"The beds were saturated, soiled and had holes in them. They just treated you like an animal and it was a place for down-and-outs where they didn't care what happened to them."

Alan Grant, of Grant Murray Architects, said transforming the building would be a tricky job.

The facelift plans have to be agreed by Historic Scotland and Glasgow City Council.

If they are approved, work to transform the old homeless shelter could start as early as next autumn.



SEE ALSO:
Homeless hostel closes down
30 Aug 01 |  Scotland


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