Ocean Terminal is a place to connect with a long-term future - Michelle MacLeod
Many people have predicted the demise of the retail sector, but I would argue that it is on the cusp of evolving into something bold and exciting.
Yes, we have lost department stores and many outlets have suffered because of the pandemic.
Ocean Terminal has even been accused of looking like a ghost town as a consequence of the lockdowns. But that perspective limits our vision.
Over the pandemic, we remained open with essential stores and food outlets. For many, it remained a place to connect with others in open and safe spaces. A fact that has been increasingly the case since restrictions have eased.
A deeper look at Ocean Terminal reveals the social enterprises that benefit from the footfall a centre like ours can bring. The Wee Museum of Memory brings different generations together. House of Jack, a not-for-profit dance studio, has increased its audience over recent months. The Leith Collective is leading the way on sustainability and Street Soccer’s, The Dugout, provides a ‘community store’ and place to meet for the young people it supports. To name but a few.
In total, we support over 600 jobs at the centre.
Alongside the shops, the leisure activities, the restaurants and, of course, The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal has always evolved. With the dynamism created by the wider regeneration of Leith, we are now embarking on a transformational redevelopment of the site that builds both on our strengths and on the needs and aspirations of the people who live and work in Leith.
By looking afresh at Edinburgh’s retail sector as a whole and at our centre in particular, there are opportunities to incorporate new moves towards 20-minute neighbourhoods, build in greater sustainable technologies and, in Leith, embrace the vibrant business community that is springing up in the area.
Our immediate neighbours include Forth Ports’ with its plans to be a green port and the construction of the Port of Leith Distillery, that will create the first vertical whisky production process and destined to be a modern landmark. Leith is also home to many foodie outlets, creative businesses and arts organisations that reflect the energy that exists to rejuvenate and adapt.
We also see that potential accentuated with the arrival of the tramline in Newhaven and indeed the range of new homes that are now either under construction or in planning for the area.
What’s more, the proposals put forward by our Scottish-based owners Ambassador Group will open up the Leith waterfront. For too long, we have turned our back on the Firth of Forth. The masterplan envisions a more outward looking aspect, with dramatic streetscape and public realm that makes the most of the centre’s location. It is also perhaps the best way to acknowledge and celebrate Leith’s rich seafaring heritage.
So, while there have been and remain challenges, many retail-led organisations are innovating and the sector in Edinburgh, including Ocean Terminal, can look forward with optimism.
An online exhibition illustrating Ocean Terminal’s masterplan is open from 23 September, where people can leave feedback.Visit www.development-oceanterminal.com
Michelle Macleod is Deputy Centre Manager at Ocean Terminal