Bidding war for offices in shadow of Castle

The former offices and storage premises in King's Stables Road are a 'priority' development site. Picture: contributed
The former offices and storage premises in King's Stables Road are a 'priority' development site. Picture: contributed
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DEVELOPERS have lodged bids worth more than £5 million to transform a block of derelict council offices located in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, it is understood.

The former offices and storage premises in King’s Stables Road have been subject to ­several bids to convert the property into student housing or a hotel development.

But at least one potential buyer is championing a ­community vision to convert the properties into an arts hub boasting galleries, performances spaces and boutique shops.

The concept of creating a culture quarter with the buildings has been mooted for several years by residents who argue that a new arts-orientated landmark would tie comfortably with nearby venues such as the Usher Hall, Traverse Theatre and Edinburgh College of Art.

King’s Stables Road was last year identified as one of 12 “priority” development sites seen as crucial to the Capital’s economic future.

Kevin Buckle, owner of Avalanche Records, is one of the key campaigners trumpeting the buildings conversion into a cultural hub.

He told how he had consulted with Tom Watton, the artist who helped develop St Margaret House in Meadowbank into a multi-arts venue, on how the plans could be realised. Mr Buckle said: “The elements that I most want to see, other than the studio space, are an indoor market taking in the best street traders in the area, which obviously Edinburgh needs given its weather, and space for record stops, book shops and craft shops for local arts.

“That would help create some storefronts on the street to help attract people.”

Fawns Reid, chairwoman of Greater Grassmarket BID – which represents dozens of businesses in the area – said an arts quarter would attract even more visitors to the area. “It will greatly enhance what we already have on offer and could be used for all sorts of creative activities, events and collaborations,” she said.

“We’ve supported this idea for a number of years and would be delighted to see it come to fruition and be included in further discussions.”

Traders have previously voiced complaints about the poor condition of King’s Stables Road, which they claim restricts its potential as a major thoroughfare between Lothian Road and Grassmarket. Persistent issues with littering and dog fouling on the street have reduced footfall through the area, harming business for shops on the west end of the Grassmarket.

Traders also blame the condition of the council-owned former roads services building, saying the eyesore discourages tourists from using the street.

In May, it was revealed that scaffolding had been in place for more than five years to stop falling masonry from injuring passers-by.

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com