Comment: ‘The West End needs its own identity’

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it is one of the great misquotes of cinema history, but the phrase “if you build it, they will come” has become part of popular culture for a reason.

The words supposedly heard by farmer Ray Kinsella as he stood in an empty field before deciding to build a baseball stadium there sum up the power of a single event to change people’s behaviour.

We have seen plenty of examples of the phenomena in Edinburgh over the years, most notably how the building of Harvey Nics transformed the whole neighbourhood around it. More of that kind of change is on the way in the east end of the city centre thanks to the £850 million redevelopment of the St James Centre and the work going on around St Andrew Square.

That is bound to change the way we all use the city centre, drawing ever growing numbers of us to the east end, but what does that mean for the West End?

The area at the other end of Princes Street needs to develop and grow its own distinct identity.

The redevelopment of the massive swathe of land below the Castle on King’s Stables Road represents a real opportunity to change the dynamics of the West End. Putting the right kind of development in will reap benefits not just in terms of regenerating what is an underused part of the city centre, but could also boost the surrounding areas.

At the moment, residents and tourists alike – tend to stop walking and turn back when they reach the end of the Grassmarket at King’s Stables Road. Similarly, anyone wandering north from the east end of Princes Street sees nothing to entice them off the main drag of Lothian Road.

A revitalised King’s Stables Road could open up the whole area, encouraging more people to walk up from Princes Street to the Grassmarket, and vice versa. It would be great if the redevelopment could feature some of the exciting plans we report on today such as horse riding and a literary trail.

The word’s actually heard by Ray Kinsella in the Kevin Costner movie, by the way, are actually “if you build it, he will come” – a reference to his baseball loving father. A bit of Ray’s vision for the future here might pay great 
dividends for the Capital.