Comment: India Buildings hotel could breathe new life into city

The India Buildings on Victoria Street. Picture: Jane Barlow
The India Buildings on Victoria Street. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IT seems strange to talk about the Old Town as a forgotten part of Edinburgh when the Royal Mile is one of the most famous streets not just in Britain but around the world.

You don’t have to wander far from the High Street, though, to find some parts that are a far cry from the tourist traps near the Castle and St Giles’.

Victoria Street is of course one of the Capital’s less celebrated gems. In most other cities, it would be the star attraction, but here it is simply somewhere that the ­locals quietly treasure and only the slightly more adventurous tourists discover.

Walk any further and the story starts to change a little. The Grassmarket is a wonderful amphitheatre, in a seriously spectacular setting, but it struggles to make the most of its undoubted attractions. Apart from when the stag parties descend on the pubs, it can be surprisingly quiet for somewhere so close to the heart of the city.

No bad thing you might think, but hard if you are trying to run a business, and the major reason a string of traders have struggled to establish themselves there.

Just around the corner, few would dare set foot in some of the alleys between the Cowgate and Victoria Street in broad daylight, never mind after dark. This is part of the city centre that is crying out for investment. The £65 million proposals for a new hotel would transform what is a rundown block in the heart of the Old Town.

Coupled with the proposals to build a hotel and new public square off King’s Stables Road, alongside some affordable housing and student flats, this could breathe new life into a part of the city that will really benefit.

There will be debate and discussion of course about the design of the building and the height of the storeys, even in the ancient neighbourhood that boasts of being the home of the original skyscrapers. But the transformation of this site is long overdue.