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The project to bring Paisley’s iconic Russell Institute back to life has taken another step forward, with the appointment of a contractor to lead the £4.5m restoration.

The A-listed former health centre has been vacant since 2011 and is in need of refurbishment, but Renfrewshire Council took ownership of the building from the NHS in February and is leading a project to turn it into offices.

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Skills Development Scotland has signed up to become anchor tenant when the building opens as a training and employability hub in 2016, bringing around 80 jobs into the town centre.

Staff from the council’s Invest in Renfrewshire programme to tackle unemployment and boost business will also move in.

Work on the restoration of the building – notable for its distinctive external sculptures – will start this summer and be led by Scottish contractor CBC.

A programme of detailed specialist surveys to establish the condition of the building has already taken place, ahead of what is expected to be a year-long refurbishment.

The work is being funded by the council, the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and Historic Scotland. The Paisley Development Trust helped kick the project off by commissioning the initial feasibility study into its use.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: “The Russell Institute is one of the jewels in Paisley’s architectural crown and has been one of the most distinctive buildings in the town centre for the best part of a century.

“We are thrilled to have been able to pull together a deal to bring it back to life and are glad the project is moving forward as planned.

“Paisley town centre has the second-highest concentration of listed buildings of anywhere in Scotland and we are committed to keeping them alive for future generations.

“Our Townscape Heritage Initiative and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme in the town’s Causeyside area has already made a massive difference to the streets and buildings around the Russell Institute over the past three years.

“And there was further good news last month when we received news that we have been earmarked for almost £2m of Heritage Lottery Fund money for another Townscape Heritage scheme in the area around Paisley’s High Street.

“That architectural heritage is at the heart of everything we are doing with our ambitious plans to use Paisley’s culture and heritage to drive Renfrewshire’s regeneration, including a bid for UK City of Culture 2021.”

Tony Lawler, treasurer of Paisley Development Trust said, “We are really pleased to see that the Russell Institute has been saved. The people of Paisley spoke out and we started a process that has saved this iconic building. The revamp of the Russell is crucial to regeneration of our town centre and Paisley as whole.”

CBC Managing Director James McAlpine added: “We are delighted to be continuing our excellent relationship with Renfrewshire Council on the Russell Institute project.

“Following on from the successful refurbishment of the Town Hall, we look forward to conserving another of Paisley’s iconic buildings for future generations.”

The Russell Institute was opened in 1927 and was gifted to Paisley Burgh by Miss Agnes Russell, who wanted it to be used as a child welfare clinic as a memorial to her two brothers.