New chapter in life of Central Library

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A HOTEL, shops, restaurants, new public squares and a completely revamped Central Library building are part of ambitious plans to create a new “literary quarter” in the Capital.

City council chiefs today unveiled the wide-ranging development plans for the buildings around the city’s main library, on George IV Bridge.

They want to develop unused storage space deep down within the Central Library, as well as a series of council-owned gap sites fronting on to the Cowgate, into new business space.

Part of the plan will see them announce a new joint venture with Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns the adjacent India Buildings at the top of Victoria Street.

The money used from the sale or lease of the new hotel, retail and leisure space would then be ploughed back into improvements to the main library building.

It has also emerged that £10.6 million will have to be found to fund “essential” work that will have to take place at the historic library before any major improvements are considered.

City leader Jenny Dawe said: “Edinburgh is seeking to refresh and refurbish its Central Library for the 21st century, making it fully accessible and a major highlight of our vibrant literary offer.

“The council agreed to explore ways of reinvigorating the building to properly reflect its status as flagship library for the world’s first Unesco City of Literature.”

The Central Library currently occupies the main George Washington Browne-designed building, which dates back to the late 19th century, as well as the Henderson building and the annexe at No. 9 George IV Bridge, which currently houses the children’s and music libraries.

The new plans have been drawn up after failure to find other means of investing in the main library building.

Council-owned buildings earmarked for redevelopment include the annexe, a former social work office in Victoria Street and the former Cowgatehead Church on the Cowgate.

A new council report published today says that pulling the assets together provides the opportunity for a “major redevelopment project” that could attract “significant” private sector investment.

Councillor Deidre Brock, the city’s culture and leisure leader, said: “This is an exciting time as we begin to examine some creative options, and we look forward to dialogue with our many library users and all interested stakeholders.”