A GAP site in Leith that has been an eyesore for more than a decade following a fireraising attack is to be converted into a £4 million housing development, it has emerged.
The former Relax Supermarket in Great Junction Street, which was destroyed in a fire in September 2000, will be transformed into 32 low-cost homes with street-level plots for retail and community projects under plans submitted by Port of Leith Housing Association.
Around 25 shop and stallholders lost their livelihoods when the indoor market containing the Relax Supermarket had to be bulldozed after the fire.
Blueprints for the new four-storey development were submitted to planning chiefs following protracted discussions to buy the site from several part-owners.
A 2008 bid to replace the former market with housing collapsed when builder Gregor Shore went bust – kicking ambitions for the site into the long grass. But plans were revived by the housing association three years ago. Working alongside the council, it managed to broker a deal with existing landowners to breathe life into the flagging project.
Now, after lying derelict for 11 years, the site will be cleared imminently in time for construction to start within the coming months.
Gordon Cameron, director of property and new business at Port of Leith, said if the deal to buy the site had failed it could have continued to stagnate for years to come.
“There was goodwill from all parties to get something done,” he said. “There was a one-off opportunity. If we had not been able to secure the site when we did it would have been lying there for another decade.”
“We think the project will re-invigorate Great Junction Street. There’s a valuable resource at the ground floor which the association will own and we are looking at options for commercial and community use.”
The housing association development will be divided into a dozen mid-market rental and 20 social rental properties.
“We are really excited about this as it was a very complicated site to assemble,” said Mr Cameron. “The council has been a big help as they were able to assist us through their affordable housing policy, using that – and taking advantage of commuted sums – to get this deal done.
Ward councillor Gordon Munro welcomed the development of a “prominent gap site”.
He said: “It has been an eyesore for too long. I’m really pleased to see it being developed after a long-protracted process.
“Recent developments in Dr Bell’s across the road and Coburg Street in Leith provide the chance for this to put the great back in Great Junction Street.’
The housing development is expected to be completed in 2014.