Student flats to quickstep into famous old dance hall

Dancers on the floor at the Palais de Danse in its heyday. Picture: TSPL
Dancers on the floor at the Palais de Danse in its heyday. Picture: TSPL
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PLANS have been lodged to transform one of Edinburgh’s most illustrious former dance halls into luxury student flats.

The shabby Fountainbridge landmark that once housed the famous Palais de Danse would be converted into a student paradise boasting a state-of-the-art gym, gaming stations and study rooms, under designs set to be submitted to City Chambers.

Launched as a cinema and ballroom in 1911, it became the Palais dancehall in 1921 and reputedly attracted royals and celebrities, including a young Sean Connery.

It was famed for its revolving stage that allowed two bands to play in unison and change over without a break in the music.

Now developers Vita Student is bidding to regenerate a site that has lain vacant since 2006 when gaming giant Mecca Bingo left the premises and relocated to Fountain Park.

With plans for an upmarket student complex featuring a spacious lounge, laundry room, pool table area and hotel-style lobby with 24-hour reception, a public consultation is set to get under way.

It is not yet known whether the art deco building will be razed to the ground or how many bedrooms would be created if the blueprints are given the green light by planners.

A spokesman for Vita Student said the accommodation would be the “first of its kind in Scotland”.

He said: “Edinburgh is a top destination for international students, a market which demands high-quality accommodation.”

He added that the project would breathe new life into a long-term vacant site.

Planning expert Robin Holder, of Holder Planning, said the student flat plans followed a market trend.

He said: “It needs to be re-developed for appropriate use and there continues to be a high demand for student accommodation.”

Chris Loudon, owner of nearby Loudon’s Cafe, welcomed the news and said students were the “only recession-proof age group in the UK”.

He added: “High-quality student accommodation would be a good idea and it has my vote.”

Edinburgh’s planning committee had previously backed proposals by the Rank Group – which owns Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo – to demolish the former dance hall and replace it with a new casino.

Licensing chiefs scuppered the plans by rejecting a gaming application because there was already “ample provision within Edinburgh for casino users”.

Vita Student said a decision to bring in the bulldozers was “under discussion”.

So far only an early application of notice has been registered which will canvas the views of the community before officially seeking planning permission.

Public exhibitions will be held on Tuesday, September 9, at Central Hall, West Tollcross, and the following day at Fountainbridge Library.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com