Edinburgh should thank the unlikely heroes behind the amazing Harvey Nichols effect – Donald Anderson

I have written before about this: the 20th anniversary of Harvey Nichols and Multrees Walk opening in Edinburgh, a development that spurred billions of pounds of investment in the city’s east end.

Some of the team that helped bring Harvey Nichols to Edinburgh from left: Donald Anderson, George McGregor, Steve Spray and George Hazel
Some of the team that helped bring Harvey Nichols to Edinburgh from left: Donald Anderson, George McGregor, Steve Spray and George Hazel

The transformation of George Street, the creation of the St James Quarter, an array of luxury hotels including Gleneagles townhouse, the new home created for Standard Life Investments, and the wonderful new restaurants on South St Andrew Square were all delivered better or earlier thanks to Harvey Nichols’ arrival.

Two key people involved in achieving that spectacular coup recently organised a party to celebrate the anniversary of the store opening. It was generously hosted by Harvey Nichols and attended by more than a dozen of the team that worked on this very special project.

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Chartered surveyors are not often seen as heroes, but it was John McGregor, David Orr, and their team who first thought of bringing Harvey Nichols to Edinburgh. They took the idea to Steve Spray of LaSalle Investment Management which oversaw the pension fund that owned the site.

It was great to say thank you to a team that was an outstanding example of public and private sector partnership. There are too many to thank individually here, but special mentions go to John McGregor and Steve Spray, and to George Hazel, who was then director of city development at the council.

The whole team worked in complete secrecy to avoid any risk of word getting out and Glasgow making a counter bid. That was no easy task for such a significant and exciting development. Everyone involved can take huge pride in what they did and what was achieved for Edinburgh.

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Despite a shroud of secrecy, the Evening News got wind of the story just before the deal was signed. George Hazel was despatched to plead with the then editor not to run the story in case it blew the deal. When faced with a choice of a juicy exclusive or what was best for the city, the Evening News did the right thing. and the rest, as they say, is history.

Donald Anderson is director of Playfair Scotland and a former Edinburgh Council leader