Princes Street is running on empty, and it's not sustainable - Kevin Buckle

It was noticeable at Christmas that all those exciting Princes Street pop-ups predicted by some pundits to complement the Christmas market failed to appear. A similar notion had been for the Festival.
Has the St James Quarter lived up to expectations?Has the St James Quarter lived up to expectations?
Has the St James Quarter lived up to expectations?

The truth is taking on the lease of a shop for a short time is more complicated than you might think and certainly even more so given the nature of the owners of Princes Street property.

Of course, it isn’t impossible – as the Tartan Tat shops would tell you.

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However, it is now time for serious thought to be given to what can be done with all those empty city centre shops and while the rush to turn them into eateries has already begun that cannot be the only solution.

In fact, I suspect if the conversions do continue apace, in five years’ time we will be talking about what to do with all the failed food outlets in the city centre.

Plan B for some is returning buildings back to the domestic dwellings they used to be, but given the prices being talked of it is by no means certain that the demand to live in the city centre is there.

Essentially there is no obvious solution, but at the moment it feels as if all the eggs are being put in one basket for ground floor units.

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Even the plans to turn upper floors into hotels and holiday apartments must at some point hit the buffers with over-provision.

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The big names in fast food are already well established in view of Princes Street and don’t really need to be any higher profile as they are easily found already.

One thing I’ve learned from talking to families in Waverley Market is that even older children don’t consider it a treat to be taken to a nice restaurant and will search out a KFC or McDonald’s, even when on holiday.

There are some some new kids on the block planned that will benefit from the profile Princes Street gives.

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Filipino chain Jollibee, who have 1200 restaurants around the world serving crispy fried chicken, burgers and spaghetti with an exotic twist, open soon at the West End.

I suspect they may fare better than other higher end businesses.

At the same time restaurants and indeed taxi drivers tell me that people don’t go out like they used to for meals even for special occasions – something which some of the more expensive restaurants opening regularly mention as being a focus.

The St James Quarter, which is now looking to further openings to improve footfall and boost its nighttime offering, is still in its infancy but has probably not met with the expectations many had for it.

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Meanwhile, at the other end of town the Johnnie Walker Centre is more of a niche offering than some realised.

Only once Edinburgh is back to its full quota of visitors will the real picture become clearer and that may be some time away but to sit back and wait will be a mistake rather than tweaking plans now that are already looking outdated.​​​​​​​

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