Frank Ross: St James Quarter to raise city profile

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Yesterday, the biggest commercial development to be secured for Edinburgh in my memory, was given the green light. The St James Quarter is to receive investment of £850 million to transform the area at the east end of Princes Street.

We have played a crucial role bringing this investment to Edinburgh by speaking to the developer at real estate trade fair MIPIM in 2009. Announcing the funding model with the Scottish Government has unlocked critical funding of £61m to improve local infrastructure and public space, allowing developer TIAA Henderson Real Estate to take the project forward.

This is fantastic news for Edinburgh and will add £25m to the Scottish economy each year. It will also provide at least 2300 permanent jobs for those seeking employment in the city.

As part of the regeneration of this area, a quarter of these positions will be filled by those looking for extra help to enter the job market. They will be given support by our staff in new retail, hospitality and construction skills academies.

This is a very exciting time for investment in the city. St James Quarter is one of 12 key sites in Edinburgh where we are working with partners to help take the projects through to the construction phase. The St James Quarter announcement follows our decision in January to give the go ahead to Caltongate for a £150m mix of leisure, retail and offices, which will revive the well-known industrial gap site in the Old Town. The £200m development at Haymarket is also under way.

The timing for this announcement really couldn’t be better as the tram launches next month and will stop right next to the St James Quarter. The development is also next to Waverley Station, which is used by around 23m people each year.

Retail is only one of many aspects of this development but a redeveloped St James Quarter would attract many more world class brands, raising the city’s international profile as a high quality shopping destination for residents and the millions of visitors coming to Edinburgh each year.

Other exciting aspects of the proposed development include grade A office space, a five-star hotel, a four-star hotel, an apart-hotel, a digital theatre, restaurants and residential 

We have worked closely with TH Real Estate to ensure that this develop has sustainability at its core. They plan to include a new combined cooling, heat and power centre, electric car charging points, extensive facilities for cyclists, photovoltaic panels, solar tubes and a city car club.

St James Centre will continue to trade until construction work begins and I am very much looking forward to construction work getting under way, which is expected to start in 2015.

Councillor Frank Ross is convener of the economy committee