Work begins on redeveloping site of Edinburgh's former Sick Kids hospital into student accommodation and private homes

Work has started on redeveloping the former site of Edinburgh’s Sick Kids hospital for student accommodation, private homes and affordable housing.

Saturday, 19th June 2021, 4:55 am

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The four-acre site close to the Meadows was handed over by NHS Lothian earlier this month to Liverpool-based developers Downing, who bought it for a reported £20 million in 2017 despite a community buy-out bid.

Various unlisted parts of the hospital will be demolished as part of the scheme while other parts will be altered and restored.

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New public space outside the redeveloped main buiding
New public space outside the redeveloped main buiding

Altogether there will be accommodation for 323 students, 95 private homes and 31 affordable homes.

The main hospital building, with its distinctive red sandstone, has been designed to be the centrepiece of the scheme. It is due to be reconfigured as 43 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom luxury apartments, duplexes and penthouses, with views either across The Meadows to Edinburgh Castle, towards Arthur’s Seat or south towards the Pentlands.

The student accommodation will be a selection of studio and shared accommodation in a new-build five-storey block.

The development will also include two public spaces, one connecting the north and south sides of the site, between Sciennes Road and Rillbank Terrace, and the other acting as a public garden positioned at the front of the hospital building.

Homes in Rillbank Terrace

Downing said historic murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair in the chapel at the hospital’s mortuary would be protected and worked into the new plans.

Residents living near the hospital had hoped to take over the site under “right to buy” laws and had plans to use the land for affordable co-operative housing, healthcare, nursery facilities, social enterprise space and a multi-purpose community hall. They formed the Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust, which submitted a bid, but it was held up over complex land ownership issues and in the meantime NHS Lothian sold the site to Downing.

Ian Harrison, projects director at Downing, said: “We are looking forward to beginning works to the former Royal Hospital for Sick Children and associated buildings, ensuring the preservation of the site’s incredible architectural features whilst providing an inspiring space for residents and the surrounding community.

“The sensitive redevelopment of the hospital facility will not only represent an exciting new chapter in the building’s history, but Downing’s commitment to providing first-class residential and student accommodation will help to continue the legacy of what has been an important part of the city for generations to come.”

The hospital was designed by eminent Edinburgh architect George Washington Browne and opened in 1895. From then the hospital expanded and led the way in many aspects of paediatric medicine.

Allister Short, service director, women’s and children’s services at NHS Lothian, said: “The Royal Hospital for Sick Children played an incredible role in supporting the health and wellbeing of children and young people across Lothian for over 125 years, and the building will always hold many memories for patients, families and staff.

“Our services are now settled into their incredible new home at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, but we will always look back on the colourful and remarkable history of our former building with fondness.”

Patients and staff from the hospital moved to their new £150m building at Little France in March 2021.

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