£850m hotel plan for St James Quarter

Picardy Place in its heyday. Picture: contributed
Picardy Place in its heyday. Picture: contributed
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IMAGES of how a hotel would look built on one of the Capital’s busiest roundabout have been released by the owners of the St James Centre.

The hotel proposed for Picardy Place would be a centrepiece of the £850 million plan to breathe new life into the St James Quarter.

Two designs – one a crescent-shaped building and the other a triangular, modern design – have been drawn up.

The designs for the hotel, built on the site of the current roundabout near the Playhouse Theatre, aim to mirror the tenement buildings which used to stand on the same spot.

The developers said the development would help to revitalise both the east end of the city centre and Leith 
Walk and create an environment which would encourage people to walk between the two areas.

Martin Perry, director of retail development at developers Henderson Global, said: “Picardy Place was once a very attractive and thriving hub in the heart of the city, and we have responded sensitively to the council’s development brief. As the point connecting the city centre and Leith, we see this as a huge opportunity to strengthen the links for the benefit of both.”

The plans include the removal of the large roundabout between the Omni Centre and St Mary’s Cathedral, which would be replaced by one of two hotel plans outlined here.

A highly-placed source said: “There are plans for two hotels, including a five-star hotel, as part of the overall project, but the hotel constructed on the roundabout site is likely to be three or four star.

“The previous building was very much in front of St Mary’s Cathedral, whereas this building will be more to the side so that there will still be a view of St Mary’s from Leith Walk and vice versa.”

The source said that it was “too early to say” when construction might begin, adding that “we are still at one of the first points of putting together a very complicated jigsaw”.

“Henderson Global will have to look at, alongside Edinburgh council, to ensure that works on Picardy Place are conducted at an appropriate time, and do not clash with the refurbishment of Leith Walk.”

The project also includes the complete demolition of one of Edinburgh’s most unloved buildings, the St James Shopping Centre.

The overall scheme was granted planning permission in 2009 and had an original start date of 2011 and a completion date of 2016.

Henderson Global Investors (HGI) has now given the city council formal notification of its intention to submit more detailed plans for the hotel part of the project.

It hopes to transform the shopping centre into a St James Quarter, featuring flagship shops, flats, offices, cafes and a public square. A luxury 239-bed, four-star hotel is also being built next to the Playhouse Theatre on Baxter’s Place.

jen.lavery@edinburghnews.com