​The odd history of one of Capital’s ‘ugliest’ buildings - Kevin Buckle

Argyle House had been sold for £38 millionArgyle House had been sold for £38 million
Argyle House had been sold for £38 million
​I was interested to read that Argyle House regularly, described as one of Edinburgh’s ugliest buildings, had been sold for £38 million.

I used to look out onto the building when I worked in The Last Record Shop on Lady Lawson Street in the Eighties when it was a busy office block.

I didn’t really give it much thought after that until I was involved in the redevelopment of King’s Stables Road when the council sold the top half leaving the car park at the bottom.

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I was asked by City of Edinburgh Council to be the person the potential developers spoke to about including an arts and retail element and through that became involved in the wider plans to increase footfall and redevelop a far wider area including the car park and Argyle House.

The fly in the ointment there was while the council also owned the car park they did not own Argyle House and I was told the building was rented out on a long lease to the government, and though the building was half empty and run down the owners had no reason to do anything while they had a guaranteed income.

There was talk of relocating The Filmhouse to a space in the redeveloped car park space but all thoughts of knocking down the Castle Terrace Car Park ended when Historic Environment Scotland decided to list it in a move that baffled virtually everybody bar a few cynics.

Speaking abut the purchase of Argyle House, Charles Crowe, head of UK investment at PGIM Real Estate referred to the guaranteed income I had been told about saying: “Supported by the strong underlying fundamentals of the city, Argyle House combines a secure income stream with fantastic long-term potential for redevelopment and regeneration in the heart of Edinburgh city centre.”

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Matt Milroy, head of asset management for the UK at Kennedy Wilson representing the sellers, also described the building as generating government backed income.

The building was of course used in the filming of Irvine Welsh’s Crime TV series but on a more permanent basis has become home to much of Edinburgh’s tech sector that would need to relocate should the building ever be redeveloped.

While the numerous hotels planned for Princes Street mean there would be little point in going down that route, it could certainly provide a fantastic space for some much needed housing, especially affordable housing.

Also unlike the developments on Princes Street that are facing many logistical issues it would be a fairly easy site to gain access to and develop without disrupting those around it.

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Given the first site planned for development at the top of King’s Stables Road ended up with no arts element or indeed retail, with the proposed shops now occupied by architects, the idea of creating Edinburgh’s premier arts quarter never got off the ground so Argyle House was always going to be a stand-alone project.

I’ve no idea when the guaranteed government income ends but I suspect it will be several years before we see any change in the plans for Argyle House.

Oddly, despite being owned by the council, and with their determination to discourage people from bringing their cars into the city centre, I suspect it may be even longer before there is any change there.

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