Caltongate revamp to be rebranded ‘New Waverley’

An artist's impression of the east end of Market Street. Picture: comp
An artist's impression of the east end of Market Street. Picture: comp
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THE controversial £150 million revamp of the Caltongate gap site is to be rebranded New Waverley with work set to start within weeks.

South-African developer Artisan Real Estate announced the name for the new district today as it emerged a deal has been signed for an 146-room “aparthotel” facing onto the Royal Mile.

The investment group will hope that rebranding the derelict Old Town site – set to house budget hotels, office blocks, shops and 180 homes next to Waverley Station – may allow it to shake off some of the negative publicity that attached to “Caltongate” following widespread criticism of the blueprints.

A string of leading Scottish authors – including Irvine Welsh, Alexander McCall Smith and Janice Galloway – signed an open letter condemning the designs as a “massive, stale, sterile modernist confection of concrete” that will “tear apart the fabric of this great city”.

The scale of the development within the World Heritage Site has been dramatically pared back from the original plans by Mountgrange Capital, which in 2009 fell foul of Unesco inspectors who called for a “total redesign” of a large part of the site.

Artisan says the New Waverley district will now set an “international benchmark for sensitive and innovative development” and improve the “overall look and feel of the area”.

The News can also reveal that the construction of three hotels and a £6.5m public square will begin by August, with work on this first phase of development set to be completed 2016. The recently signed deal for an Adagio Aparthotel comes months after an agreement was reached with Whitbread for a 127-room Premier Inn and 130-room Hub hotel – the first of its kind outside London. Artisan’s managing director Lukas Nakos said New Waverley marked an “exciting chapter” in the “evolution of the Old Town”.

He said: “We are well aware of the complexities that surround development in such a sensitive area, which is why we spent almost two years on a comprehensive consultation process bringing together more than 200 local people, businesses, civic partners and heritage bodies.

“Following extensive community feedback, our plans for New Waverley now reflect a marked change in direction from previous planning consents, both in terms of improved development quality and in preserving the heritage of such a unique area.”

New Waverley’s design retains several historic buildings, such as the Canongate Venture and the façade of the Old Sailor’s Ark, to preserve the character of the district.

The Market Street arches are to be opened up as small, individual units and views of Calton Hill from the Royal Mile will be preserved.

It is thought 1750 vacancies could arise from the development with around 720 construction jobs being created during the building phase.

The latest research shows that, once complete, New Waverley will generate an approximate annual turnover for the area of £84m – contributing some £43m of gross value added to the local economy each year.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com