The Willow Tea Rooms Trust, owner of Glasgow’s iconic Willow Tea Rooms building and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the umbrella body for voluntary organisations in Scotland, have jointly bought over 20,000 square feet of retail and office space next to the existing Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street for £2.3 million.
The purchase will allow The Willow Tea Rooms Trust to expand the operations of the only remaining Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Tea Rooms and to create additional opportunities, for example a Mackintosh visitor and education centre, which will help to boost tourism and the regeneration of Sauchiehall Street.
Celia Sinclair, Founder of The Willow Tea Rooms Trust explained; “When we bought the existing Willow Tea Rooms last year in order to upgrade it and restore it to its former glory, we already knew that to fulfil our vision, and for practicalities such as installing lift access, we would require additional space. We were interested in the adjoining buildings and they couldn’t have come on the market at a better time! With SCVO’s help we have a great opportunity to create something truly special and sustainable in Sauchiehall Street that will celebrate and safeguard Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s legacy.”
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations will use the balance of the substantial building to replicate its successful Brunswick House facility in Glasgow, which provides workspaces and offices to Scottish charitable organisations.
John Ferguson, Director of Development and Programmes of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said; “We are really proud to have been involved in saving this iconic piece of Glasgow’s heritage and to see it in the hands of a charitable trust which will preserve it for the people of Glasgow and visitors from across the world to enjoy. SCVO also plans to create a charitable business centre within the building which will help charities and community groups in the city to work together to make an even bigger difference to the lives of people in Glasgow.”
Funding of the acquisition has been from Social Investment Scotland and Unity Trust Bank, which offers specialist banking and finance to social enterprises that have a positive impact on their communities.
Speaking of the investment, Alastair Davis, Chief Executive of Social Investment Scotland said: “As well as supporting the restoration of the Willow Tea Rooms, this investment will help create jobs, support tourism, and open up the world of Scottish artistry and architecture to a wider social demographic.
“Importantly, the Trust’s ability to generate revenue from the retail outlet and rented commercial space next door will help to make it financially sustainable. This is an excellent example of how taking on investment and a social enterprise business model can secure the long term future of charities like the Willow Tea Rooms Trust.”
Gordon Allan, Relationship Manager for Scotland at Unity Trust Bank said of the investment: “Unity is delighted to be part of a collaboration to restore this iconic heritage site. What’s more, the proposed work hub will encourage job creation and add value to the local community, both of which are central to our purpose as a specialist bank for the social economy.
“This is the third loan we have provided to SCVO for property acquisition in a major Scottish city and we are keen to work on similar financially sustainable projects that support Scotland’s social economy”.