Jenners set to quit Princes Street as Danish billionaire plans revival of iconic Edinburgh building

The department store is set to leave the street after more than 180 years.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 6:32 am

The Jenners brand name is set to disappear from its iconic Princes Street location as the building’s Danish billionaire owner unveils plans to reinvent the historic building

Plans for the building from owner Anders Holch Povlsen, who is reportedly worth £4.5bn, will see a hotel, cafes and rooftop restaurant and bar replace the existing department store alongside a potential raft of luxury shops linked to his clothing empire Bestseller.

The project’s plans include a “total restoration” of the Category A listed building’s facade including the sensitive reinstatement of lost original elements.

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Jenners is set to disappear from Princes Street after 181 years (Photo: TSPL)

It will see Jenners leave the street it has called home since 1838 with a potential move to the St James Centre or another city location on the cards.

Mr Povlsen bought the building which spans sections of Princes Street and Rose Street for a reported £50m in 2017.

The plans point towards an attempt to reinvent the building with a move away from the traditional department store and towards mixed-use including retail, food and drink, and tourist accommodation.

The move could also revive the street which saw discount store Poundland move in to a retail unit earlier this month.Jenners expected to leave in 2020 or 2021

Jenners is set to disappear from Princes Street after 181 years (Photo: TSPL)

David Chipperfield Architects, one of the foremost architectural firms in the world, has been appointed by the billionaire to lead the design of the project which will begin in 2021 at the earliest.

The current tenants of the building, Jenners, are expected to leave in 2020 or 2021.

Work is not planned to start before a timeframe is established with House of Fraser who trade under the Jenners brand name.

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley announced yesterday his company would rebrand as Frasers Group and launch a new lifestyle store chain Frasers within the financial year.

Jenners is set to disappear from Princes Street after 181 years (Photo: TSPL)

Project manager, Anders Krogh, said the plans for the Jenners building will aim to create the “best possible framework for future users”.

He added: ““The project is first and foremost about helping to preserve a unique historic building in Edinburgh.

“We are pursuing the project because we have a passion for architecture and historical buildings.

“Already when we acquired the building, we knew that it came with a great deal of responsibility.

Jenners is set to disappear from Princes Street after 181 years (Photo: TSPL)

“Jenners is an iconic building in Edinburgh, and we take the responsibility of renovating it very seriously.”

Rooftop restaurant and bar planned

The plans, which will require planning permission, includes an extension of the building’s parapet and a tidying of the roofscape to allow for a new rooftop restaurant and bar overlooking St Andrew Square.

There will also be a private terrace for the hotel’s corner suite with views of the Mound and Arthur’s Seat.

The central atrium which spans three storeys will receive a full restoration and the 1966 extension onto St David Street will also get a new facade.

Overall the new development will include more than 10,000 square metres of hotel space, 7,000 square metres of retail space including cafes and restaurants.

Jenners is set to disappear from Princes Street after 181 years (Photo: TSPL)

Discussions between the developers and the council are ongoing ahead of a formal planning application.

Jenners holds "fond memories"

Councillor Neil Gardiner, planning committee convener, said: “Jenners Department Store holds many fond memories for Edinburgh citizens and visitors alike.

“An important part of this designation is the galleried grand hall with timber and glass roof which allows daylight to flood in, which the public can enjoy.

“If the building has an alternative use in the future it would be important to consider how the key features of the building can be incorporated into any proposed redevelopment.

“We recently consulted on retail use in the city centre to make sure our planning policies remain flexible and councillors will look at any proposed changes to our guidance in the New Year.”

Cllr Gardiner added the future of Princes Street is already changing as more historic brands leave and more mixed-use and leisure options set up shop.

He said: “The future of Princes Street is already changing with plans for the £150m Johnnie Walker visitor centre at the West End well underway.

“We need to keep active frontage in Princes Street but there is plenty of scope and opportunity for other uses as well including the upper levels with truly outstanding views of the castle and gardens.

”Princes Street has over time been adaptable: first set out for residential use, over time it emerged as a place for grand hotels and members clubs and shopping.

“With appropriate policies it can continue to evolve to meet changing needs in a way which respects its place in this city.”

Chris Pyne, leasing director at Edinburgh St James, commented: “We are holding discussions with a number of occupiers, but we do not comment on confidential negotiations whilst they remain just that.”

Sports Direct, who own the brand Jenners following its takeover of House of Fraser, denied it will move the store into the St James Centre.The company would not be drawn on its future location.

What does this mean for Princes Street?

With Poundland responding to critics suggesting it was “cheapening” Princes Street with aplomb, what does the departure of Jenners mean for the future of the street?

Professor Leigh Sparks, deputy principal and professor at Stirling University’s Institute for Retail Studies, said Princes Street will continue to have its challenges despite its iconic location.

He said: “It clearly has its challenges. It is an iconic street, it has fabulous views and it has things it can build on.

“The Jenners building is iconic in its own right. It will be interesting to see what it does turn into.

“The problem with Princes Street is that if you walk down it, do you want to walk back up? So it lacks a point of difference like George Square in Glasgow.

“As a street it is seen as a major name but in reality for some people on the retail side it is quite disappointing despite being interesting visually.”

He added that to survive the street must adapt with more leisure activities and cafes and restaurants.

He said: “I think you have a bit of that already. The centre of gravity in the city centre has already shifted from Princes Street towards George Street.“