A TATTY former bus depot mothballed for the last ten years is to be transformed into a £40 million housing complex boasting 340 new properties.
The move will see the brownfield site at Shrubhill – that that behind the deserted ex-social work HQ at the top end of Leith Walk – undergo a major overhaul that would to regenerate a “forgotten” area of the city.
It is thought more than 500 jobs would be supported from the development that would be financed through a council loan and run by Port of Leith Housing Association and Dunedin Canmore.
If given the green light, it is thought all of the “modern and energy-efficient” properties would be completed by December 2019.
A report describes the site has having a “significant detrimental impact on the wider regeneration of Leith Walk” and warns that failing to progress the development could see it remaining “vacant for the foreseeable future”.
Vice-housing convenor Cammy Day said the ambitious housing project would “breathe new life” into the top end of Leith.
“I think that it will bring some vibrancy and help the Leith community,” said Cllr Day. “It’s a key site in the city that’s been abandoned for years now. It’s about regenerating the top of Leith by bringing in new affordable homes and new public realm investments.”
Most of the development site is masked from public view by Shrubhill House – a so-called “drugs den” that has been plagued by antisocial behaviour since council staff moved out six years ago.
Developers Unite, student accommodation specialists, were granted an extra 18 months to start work on the problem site, having failed to attract interest from hotels since buying it for £6m in 2007. Cllr Day said pressure from frustrated community groups could mount on Unite, forcing it to deal quickly with the dilapidated building.
The site has been repeatedly subjected to vandalism, with reports of youths hurling concrete blocks from the roof and the theft of the huge metal security gates preventing troublemakers from entering
Alex Wilson, chair of Leith Business Association, welcomed the plan. Describing the site as a “blight and an eyesore” he said it would prove a boon for local traders.
“The number of homes, which is 340, seems extraordinarily dense for a development in Leith Walk but obviously it all depends how it’s constructed,” he said. “There’s no disputing that Edinburgh and Leith needs more housing so if it’s done properly I’m sure the local community council and LBA would support it.”