A MAJOR £75 million development is set to change the face of shopping in the city centre – seven years after permission was first granted for the new mall and offices on St Andrew Square.
Work to demolish the vacant former Scottish Provident office building on the south of the square is expected to begin immediately, with the site then being developed into a brand new shopping mall, topped by offices and rooftop apartments.
The development will see double height shop units created across the ground floor of the extensive site, with entrances to the new stores from both St Andrew Square and South St David Street.
It will create a new link between Princes Street and the St James Centre through Multrees Walk, with the 165,000sq ft development described as the most important for the city’s retail sector since the arrival of Harvey Nichols.
The developers Standard Life Investments and Peveril Securities say it will deliver a considerable boost to the city centre as both a shopping and business district by providing new stores and prestigious new offices.
But it has not been universally welcomed, with the design of the new building and partial demolition of a B-listed building sparking anger and condemnation from architects and heritage groups. The 1960s-style design of the old office block once saw it branded an “eyesore” by councillors but it has also been defended as an “iconic” building.
The development at 3-8 St Andrew Square aims to breathe new life into a site which has lain vacant for five years.
David Stewart, fund manager of Standard Life Investments Pooled Property Fund, said: “The property is in an absolutely prime location and we will be creating a first-class long-term investment for our investors.”
Demolition work is expected work to start immediately with the project due to be complete by 2016.
The former headquarters of Scottish Provident insurance was acquired by Peveril Securities in March 2012 for £20m.
Kieran Gaffney, of Edinburgh architectural firm Konishi Gaffney, called the new design “blandness masquerading as bold”, and said: “The partial demolition of the B-Listed modernist masterpiece at 6-7 St Andrews Square is a disgraceful part of this.
“Modernism is hugely unpopular with the public so we should realise that when a 1960s building actually gets listed it must be brilliant and should be better protected.”
Edinburgh architectural consultant David Black called the new building “about the worst example of ego-architecture ever proposed for the New Town”.
He added: “It is an absolute scandal that they are proposing the total destruction of two handsome stone-designed buildings on the south side of St Andrew’s Square, and the desecration of Kininmonth’s Scottish Provident Building.”
Edinburgh’s civic trust, The Cockburn Association, also registered its displeasure with the plans before they were approved.
In a letter sent to the council planning committee, director Marion Williams said: “There is no exceptional economic case to justify demolition of what is a fine and rare listed building of its type and era.”
A spokeswoman for Standard Life stressed the benefits the new development would bring to the city centre business and retail district.
She said: “We are pleased to be able to contribute towards the regeneration of the south side of St Andrew Square.
“The development will bring a long unoccupied building back into use as a first class contemporary, mixed-use development.”
‘It’s good to have variety’
WITH experts criticising the plans to redevelop a prime site on st Andrew Square, we asked some people in the area what they thought of the new design.
Brian Barber, 71, pictured, was generally in favour of the proposal, saying: “There’s so many different kinds of architecture in the city centre, it’s good to have a bit of variety.”
There was also backing from Mary McCann, 64, pictured, of Liberton, who said: “The new building looks as if it’ll be quite modern. The area has got to move on even though we like the look of the old buildings.”
Others were less keen however, with one couple visiting the area saying the plans were not in keeping with the surrounding square, adding: “It doesn’t look right in terms of keeping up with the surrounding area, and that’s just from the first look.
“It reminds me of the parliament! It’ll look very modern but that doesn’t necessarily make it look correct for the area.”
By Ken Houston, owner of a PR agency and a former award-winning property journailst
This being Edinburgh, it is hardly surprising such a controversial design has not won hearts and minds in some quarters.
However, design is subjective and others will see a bold scheme whose effect will be to help regenerate a key part of town which, despite recent imaginative landscaping, not to mention the emergence of Harvey Nichols, has never been quite the same since the departure of the Scottish life assurance companies with whom St Andrew Square was once synonymous.
Setting aside differences in architectural taste, the development can only be good news for the city centre and the businesses that will feed off the retail spend of those eventually employed there. With The Exchange business district now complete, there is little scope for large-scale office schemes within the central area.
So as well as boosting the city centre as a whole, this scheme will return some east-west balance to the central area office map.