Frank Ross: New lease of life for Old Town

An artist's impression of the �150m Caltongate project. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the �150m Caltongate project. Picture: contributed
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Last week, councillors gave the go-ahead to Caltongate, a much-needed mixed development, which will revive the well known industrial gap site in the Old Town. In days gone by it used to be occupied by a bus garage and gas works.

The site is one of the “Edinburgh 12” on which we are working in partnership with developers and investors to bring much-needed housing, offices, hotels and jobs to the city to keep our economy growing.

International consortium Artisan Real Estate Investors plans to breathe new life into the area, which has been left neglected for many years, with a £150 million mix of hotels, shops, cafes and restaurants as well as much- needed grade A office space. This will bring thousands of new jobs into the area as well creating employment opportunities during the construction phase, with the potential for these to be drawn from Leith and surrounding areas in North Edinburgh.

More than 400 new hotel bedrooms in the development, which will incorporate a pedestrian link from Waverley Station through to the Royal Mile, will bring many more visitors into the area, benefitting the Old Town as well as the wider city economy. Around 28 new businesses will also move into the area. The arches on East Market Street, in particular, will provide a wide range of space for anyone looking for an attractive, quirky outlet for workshop space, shops, restaurants and cafes. It will be fantastic to see this part of the Old Town take on a completely new lease of life.

New residents will also move into the adjacent housing development, bringing a real boost to the Old Town community. It will include at least 180 new homes, of which 40 will be affordable ones.

Residents, visitors and those working in the area will all be able to enjoy a new £6.5m square planned by Artisan in order to give the area a sense of place.

Having an attractive public space to meet colleagues and friends is vital to enticing people to use the many new shops and attractions this development will have to offer. It will also help to encourage those working in the area to frequent the shops and cafes which will line the new square. An added bonus will be a new viewing area built for people to enjoy the views to Calton Hill from Jeffrey Street.

In addition, preservation of the listed Canongate Venture building, and the historic Sailor’s Ark frontage on the Royal Mile will retain much- loved historic features in this modern development.

Work is scheduled to start on Caltongate this summer and construction will be phased. When complete, the economic impact of this development is estimated to be huge, bringing in £43m a year to the local economy.

I am sure that in the coming years many of us will make use of these new facilities and look back with a sense of gratitude that Edinburgh is attracting this level of investment from international developers. The end result will be the creation of new jobs, more visitors and residents, businesses, and most importantly, the enhancement of a sense of community on what is now a neglected gap site.

This will also bring great benefits to residents, visitors and businesses alike in the surrounding areas.

• Councillor Frank Ross is convener of the economy committee at Edinburgh City Council