New £300 million Haymarket urban square could host festival events

A model of the plans for the site.
A model of the plans for the site.
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The new developers behind a £300m scheme at one of Edinburgh’s biggest gap sites plans to create an urban square that could be capable of hosting festival events.

World-renowned architect firm Foster + Partners - famous for designing The Gherkin in London - has been appointed to sketch the masterplan of the four-acre mixed-use development site on Morrison Street which has been vacant for half a century.

The development at the heart of Edinburgh’s financial and commercial centre promised to be the city’s best connected office location, being within a couple of minutes’ walk of tram, bus links and Haymarket station.

The prominent site currently has planning permission for three Grade A office buildings totalling 350,000 sq ft, a 190-room hotel and a 172-room aparthotel. It also has provision for 40,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space. M&G Real Estate acquired the Haymarket site in June last year for £49.1m and has now submitted a fresh application detailing their proposals for the Haymarket site.

New plans are set to be similar featuring three eight-storey office blocks as well as two hotels coming in at seven and six storeys respectively.

But the developer, the Qmile Group, has also revealed it plans to move two of the blocks to the back of the site to make way for an innovative urban square as a focal point to the scheme in the hope of enticing increased footfall to the west of the Capital.

The outdoor area is to make up 36 per cent of the whole scheme with the developer taking inspiration from a similar project at Granary Square in London’s King’s Cross.

Qmile Group’s chief executive, Paul Curran, told the Evening News: “The appointment of Foster + Partners brings together an unrivalled team with the knowledge and expertise to fund, design and deliver what is a key development for Edinburgh. The old masterplan is nearly 15 years old and we thought there was an opportunity to create a public space where commuters or locals will want to spend time.

“We hope that along with the right restaurant and bar provision it will create a vibrant area that could potentially be used for events whether that be for the festival or the rugby. It’ll be an attractive place for people to gather; something the area lacks.

“I think it’s great for the west side of the city because I feel it has been neglected a little compared to the east side. We view this as being the gateway to the city centre.”

The project has been hit with a series of delays, including underground tunnel work, meaning the former Morrison Street Goods Yard has been an eyesore for decades.

M&G Real Estate plans to submit a full planning application in the coming months and, subject to approval, plans to begin construction work by the end of the year.

Mr Curran added: “We hope to be on site as soon as possible. The whole project we anticipate could take around four years to complete.

“You don’t get opportunities like this very often.”