Edinburgh in boom: Building project numbers treble

The ''St James Quarter redevelopment.
The ''St James Quarter redevelopment.
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A NEW map of major developments in the centre of Edinburgh has revealed the Capital is a hotbed of activity on the property scene.

It shows a total of 17 projects completed in the past three years and the number of developments under construction trebling since 2011.

Keith Aitken, head of the Edinburgh office of consultants GVA James Barr – who produced the map – pinpointed the Quartermile development at the site of the old Royal Infirmary, the Atria next to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in Morrison Street, and student developments at Fountainbridge as among the most significant.

He said there were clusters of activity across the city centre, including:

• Haymarket, where preparation work is under way on a £200 million office, hotel, commercial and leisure development;

• St Andrew Square, where a whole corner has been demolished to make way for a new development of shops, offices and flats;

• And the planned £850m redevelopment of the nearby St James Quarter.

But he also highlighted the major Caltongate project, now renamed New Waverley, in the heart of the Old Town. Demolition recently began in East Market Street to make way for two hotels as part of the £150m development, which also includes offices, shops, a new public square and 180 homes.

Mr Aitken said the trams would eventually give a boost to development both at Haymarket and the East End.

He said: “The most notable addition to Edinburgh has been the much-maligned tram network leading from York Place to the airport. This is now fully operational and in June and July attracted 90,000 customers per week.

“In time, we believe the tram will benefit development at Haymarket and in the East End of the city around St Andrew Square.”

But he said large-scale development activity along Princes Street and within the “golden rectangle” – bounded by Charlotte Square, St Andrew Square, Princes Street and Queen Street – had been very limited since 2011.

Traditionally, the area close to George Street was seen as a prime spot for office projects – but only one office development had been completed on Charlotte Square, while three existing vacant office buildings had recently been acquired for a change of use to either hotel or serviced apartments.

Offices at 44 York Place were being converted to a Premier Inn, Erskine House in Queen Street had been bought for conversion to serviced apartments and Lismore House at 127 George Street had been sold for the same purpose.

However, Mr Aitken predicted a recovery in the office market. He said: “The fact hotels and serviced apartments have been able to compete with offices is interesting, but as the office market improves and catches up with the other UK centres of Manchester and Birmingham, we will see offices start to outperform theses uses.”

He said 11 of the consented or proposed schemes included office space. “This is slightly lower than anticipated and only three of these schemes are actually on-site – 
3-8 St Andrew Square, Quartermile 4 and The Haymarket.”

Further office development was required to satisfy demand, he said. “We foresee this taking place at Fountain South, New Waverley and through further office development at Quartermile.”

Mr Aitken said student accommodation has been the most active sector with nine projects either completed, under construction or with planning consent extending to approximately 3700 new beds to accommodate city students.

Meanwhile, the retail sector was dominated by the St James Quarter plans, where TIAA Henderson Real Estate is proposing to start on site in March.

Mr Aitken said: “This is a major four-year project and will transform the retail scene in Edinburgh. A pre-letting campaign is now under way and together with the new Apple store [in Princes Street], will serve to swing the prime pitch in retail towards the East End of the city centre.”

Hardcore apple fans join queue at 4am

Huge crowds turned out for the grand opening of the Apple store on Princes Street.

Eager shoppers queued from the as early as 4am on Saturday to be the first inside the store at the east end of Princes Street.

The first 1000 people through the doors were given commemorative T-shirts to mark the occasion.

Apple staff in blue T-shirts stoked up an atmosphere of excited impatience as fans shivered in the chill morning. Leon Warren, 25, from Edinburgh, was first in line. “We’ve been through the wind, rain, cold - everything,” he said.

“But I’m excited to get in. I’m a huge Apple fan, I’ve got all the products – I have three iPhones, two iPads, an Apple TV and an iPod.”

Taiwanese student David Wu, 23, travelled from York to be in the Capital for the grand unveiling.

He said: “I’m excited. I’m just a huge fan – the user experience with Apple is just amazing.”

Apple officially announced it would open the £1 million store in Edinburgh back in July, but a store has been pegged for the Capital since as far back as 2010.