CONSTRUCTION work on the controversial £150 million Caltongate development is to start within weeks following the referendum No vote, the firm behind the project has announced.
South African-based Artisan Real Estate Investors said demolition was already under way and building work was expected to begin in November.
The Caltongate scheme – renamed New Waverley earlier this year in a bid to move on from the controversy surrounding the project – includes budget hotels, office blocks, shops, a new public square and 180 homes in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.
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.
But the new design has also proved controversial with a string of leading Scottish authors – including Irvine Welsh, Alexander McCall Smith and Janice Galloway – signing an open letter condemning it as a “massive, stale, sterile modernist confection of concrete” that will “tear apart the fabric of this great city”.
The eight-week Caltongate demolition programme includes the dismantling of the former council buildings opposite the council’s current headquarters at Waverley Court.
Construction of the first hotels will start shortly afterwards, with completion scheduled for early 2016. The development will include an Adagio Aparthotel, a 127-room Premier Inn and 130-room Hub hotel – the first of its kind outside London.
Artisan’s managing director Lukas Nakos has described New Waverley as an “exciting chapter” in the “evolution of the Old Town”.
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 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.