Developer eyes hotel plan for ex-wedding venue

India Buildings on Victoria Street. Picture: Bill Henry
India Buildings on Victoria Street. Picture: Bill Henry
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A HISTORIC city landmark which hosted Scotland’s first same-sex civil partnership is set to be given a new lease of life as part of a £45 million hotel development.

India Buildings – which includes the former registry office where Gail Porter got married – has been bought by developers Jansons, which recently completed the nearby £35m SoCo development.

It has also bought adjoining council-owned land in the Cowgate where it plans to build a new multi-storey block, allowing it to create a 220-bedroom four-star hotel.

The hotel entrance will be through the A-listed India Buildings in Victoria Street, but the development will extend right down to the Cowgate.

The B-listed former Cowgatehead Free Church, currently used as a clinic, will be incorporated into the project.

Michael Tomkins, development director at Jansons, said: “India Buildings is an iconic building at the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre. The acquisition of this property presents a wealth of options for redevelopment. Originally, the plans were for a hostel. However, we have decided to convert the building into a hotel that will also include dining and licensed facilities.

“This whole area was tenements in the 18th century. We are going to replicate that quarter and bring some new life to Cowgate.”

He said the company would be able to draw on its experience of the SoCo development – which includes the 259-bedroom Ibis hotel – and also involved constructing a multi-storey building in the World Heritage Site.

He added: “We finished that last December. We have put a similar team together for this and we hope it will be a similarly successful development.”

He said it would take about 12 months to pull the plans for the development together and consult with heritage bodies and residents and added that developments of this scale typically took three years to ­complete.

India Buildings dates back to 1864 and is described as a Scots Baronial and Jacobean office block.

Edinburgh-born TV presenter Gail Porter tied the knot with musician Dan Hipgrave at India Buildings in 2001 when it housed the city’s registry office. The building also saw Edinburgh’s first same-sex civil partnership ceremony in 2005.

Mr Tomkins said certain rooms had special listed protection and their historic features could not be altered.

Most of the building, has been lying unused for the best part of a decade, apart from occasional use as a Fringe venue. RBS Real Estate Management, which acquired the property in 2010, sold it to Jansons for an undisclosed sum via Colliers International.

Marion Williams, of the Cockburn Association, said: “It will be interesting to see what plans they have for the development and we will have to consider whether they are acceptable or not.

“It’s certainly an area that needs tidied up and if they can do something there 
and achieve that, that will be good.”

She said the association would be looking carefully at the proposals for the Cowgatehead church as well as India Buildings.