Old Town traders try to boost profile of historic area

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BUSINESS leaders in the Old Town have launched a new campaign to secure Business Improvement District status for the area under the name Original Edinburgh.

Mirroring Essential Edinburgh, which runs the BID covering the New Town, the new body would lead initiatives and investment to promote the historic heart of the Capital, financed by a levy on businesses in the area.

Old Town business leaders launch business improvement drive'.Photo  L-R - Councillor Kate Campbell, Martin Clarke/Edinburgh Woollen Mill. Fawns Reid/ Fabhatrix, Kat Brogan/Mercat Tours, James McGregor/The Royal McGregor, Jocelyne Fleming/OE Project Manager, Councillor Lezley Marion Cameron, Andrew McRae,

Old Town business leaders launch business improvement drive'.Photo L-R - Councillor Kate Campbell, Martin Clarke/Edinburgh Woollen Mill. Fawns Reid/ Fabhatrix, Kat Brogan/Mercat Tours, James McGregor/The Royal McGregor, Jocelyne Fleming/OE Project Manager, Councillor Lezley Marion Cameron, Andrew McRae,

James McGregor, chair of the Original Edinburgh steering group and owner of the Royal McGregor Restaurant and Whisky Bar on the Royal Mile, said ideas already gathered from a consultation included improving the look and feel of the streets, joining with residents over regulation of short-term lets and working with charities and hostels to tackle the problem of homelessness in the area.

He said there would be further consultation and a business plan for the BID would be drawn up to be put to a ballot of all businesses in the area around November this year. Mr McGregor said a previous ballot had been postponed because it was felt more consultation was needed.

He said: “As local business owners and employers, we are heavily invested in the Old Town, its local economy, and its communities. We want to see this part of Edinburgh, the original Edinburgh, thrive now and in the future.

“We’ve seen the positive impact business improvement district status has had in the New Town, through Essential Edinburgh, and in the West End, as well as many other parts of Scotland. We believe we can replicate that success in the Old Town.”

The exact boundaries of the new BID area have not yet been fixed, but it would include the Grassmarket which previously had its own BID.

Andrew McRae, owner of Museum Context, which sells Harry Potter merchandise and other collectibles in Victoria Street, is backing the BID.

He said: “A mixture of niche and specialist products, featuring the very best of Scotland has to offer, makes the Old Town an unrivalled retail experience and a thriving place for people to live, work, visit and do business.

“Our vibrant night time economy, characterised by a blend of traditional and contemporary music, food and drink, is testament to Scotland’s global reputation and our wide variety of hospitality offers makes the Old Town a warm welcome for visitors and homely surroundings for residents. We want to promote and market the Old Town as a premium cultural, retail and hospitality experience.”

And Kathleen Brogan, owner of Mercat Tours, said: “The home of the Scottish Enlightenment and a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Old Town has a compelling cultural offering, attracting four million visitors each year. As well as hosting Scotland’s top visitor attractions, it features many museums, libraries and other cultural centres. We want to enhance and maintain our public space as a quality experience for workers, residents and visitors and provide a single voice to represent and advocate the interests of our local businesses.”