A major makeover of Nairn town centre has started with the building of a £3.6m community and cultural centre.
Nairn High Street is earmarked for £500,000 of improvements
Work has begun on constructing the new complex near King Street in the Nairnshire town.
It will provide meeting rooms, pre-school nursery, music room, photography dark room and youth cafe.
The centre is being seen as the opening phase of refurbishing the town centre. More than £500,000 has been earmarked for improving the High Street.
Highland Council and Nairn Community Centre Development Company were involved in drawing up the plans for the centre.
Nairn firm John A Jack Contracts was awarded the tender for the 1,236sq metre centre and work is expected to take 12 months.
The existing community centre, on the opposite side of King Street in the former Free Church building, was built in 1843.
It will remain open while its replacement is being built.
Eventually, the old building will be demolished along with council social work offices to make way for a new Somerfield supermarket.
Somerfield, which already has a supermarket in Nairn, has also bought the former Regal Bar, cinema and a derelict petrol station.
Highland Council said the deal was in the final stages of being signed off by both parties.
Social work staff will move to premises at Nairn Town and County Hospital as part of the Joint Futures Project with NHS Highland. A new hospital is scheduled for completion early 2008.
Meanwhile, the newly-formed Nairnshire Partnership has been working on plans for a £500,000 refurbishment of the High Street.
Proposals will be drawn up by Highland Council's planning and development service in consultation with Nairnshire Partnership before going out to public consultation later this year.
The bandstand on Nairn beach will undergo repairs
Provost Sandy Park said he was delighted that improvements had started to the former Victorian seaside resort.
He said: "We have experienced a few setbacks along the way, but I am confident that the pieces are now fitting into place in the jigsaw of redevelopments in the town centre.
"An early start to work on the community centre should send out a signal that we are back in business and I am confident it will be the catalyst to a wide range of improvements to our town."
Jim Clark, chairman of Nairn Community Centre Development Company, said: "The go-ahead for the eagerly-awaited community centre project is great news for Nairn and our thanks go to all the funding agencies and the public of Nairn who have contributed so generously.
"The complex will benefit the whole community - from nursery pupils right through to our senior citizens and will be an important focal point for arts and community events in our town."
Other projects designed to spruce up the town include repairs costing £70,000 to the bandstand on the beach. It is one of only two of its kind in Scotland.