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While the opening fanfare was mostly scaled back due to Covid restrictions, three incredible dancers from the Scottish Ballet were on hand to kick start the celebrations by demonstrating their award-winning formations against the spectacular St James Quarter backdrop.
The £1 billion development has been one which has reinvented the east end of Princes Street, and is set to pull in visitors from far and wide as they sit on the doorsteps of both Edinburgh Waverley train station and the bus station, not to mention the countless bus routes and the tram line in the Capital.
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Despite the weather being clouded over, shoppers showed up early to the 850,000 sq ft galleria, some as early as 3am as they eagerly awaited the LEGO store opening.
At 9am sharp, hundreds of guests were seen entering the stunning 850,000 sq ft galleria, exploring Edinburgh’s newest fashion district as each retailer officially opened.
In its first phase of opening, more than 40 retailers welcomed the public through their doors on opening morning, many of which are debuting their brand in Scotland for the first time, including, & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear.
Six new brands will join the line up in the coming weeks, including the Scottish food hall, Bonnie & Wild, which opens next month, as well as Bross Bagels, The Kooples and Aeronautica – with a further 19 opening by the end of Autumn.
Committed to championing local brands, taking over Little King Street for the next 12 months are an array of local food and drink pop-ups including Harajuku Kitchen, Artisan Roast, The Mac Man and Churros, Baby? to keep shoppers energised whilst visiting the Quarter throughout the year.
When complete, in addition to the new shopping hub, St James Quarter will include a 244-bedroom W Edinburgh.
The first in Scotland, the glamorous hotel which has changed the Edinburgh skyline will include a W Lounge, a signature restaurant, a W Sound Suite, workout facility and spa.
152 New Eidyn apartments for residential city centre living from Native Land will also join the roster.
As well as stunning views from their ‘gardens in the sky’, the new homes will include a shared garden room and unparalleled residents’ services including full concierge service.
There will also be a stylish 75-room Roomzzz Aparthotel, where guests can stay for one night, a week and up to a year.
With an emphasis of the space becoming something which is a mixed use facility, there will also be nine event spaces.
An enviable events programme has been created across a range of new and attractive public spaces.
Set to host a diverse range of pop-up fashion and music shows, the St James Quarter will link to the city’s rich cultural offering and events calendar.
A boutique Everyman Cinema will debut its first Edinburgh location and will feature five screens and indulgent sofa seating.
And while the retail offering opened on Thursday, the highly anticipated diverse dining experience has not yet fully opened.
St James Quarter will have an enticing mix of restaurants, from fast food, fresh food, to family and restaurant dining, there will be something to tantalise all tastebuds.
The Quarter boasts the first Bonnie & Wild Scottish food hall set to open in July and will also be home to Scotland’s first The Alchemist.
Earlier in the week, managing director Nick Peel had stressed that he hoped residents of the Capital and keen shoppers would show up gradually throughout the day to ensure that social distancing measures could remain in place.
And they did. There was a quiet calm to the morning as retailers began to open their doors and early shoppers who had begun to queue ahead of 9am stepped over the threshold to experience the stores in Edinburgh’s brand new retail-led lifestyle hub for the first time.
Throughout the day St James Quarter was awash with shoppers and significant queues were spotted at LEGO, & Other Stories, Zara, Bershka, and Pull&Bear.
Speaking to the Evening News at today’s opening, Nick Peel, managing director of St James Quarter said: “It’s been fantastic after many years of project planning, to throw open the centre this morning and see guests pulsing through that’s what it's all about. We’ve always designed St James Quarter with the guest in mind.
“We had queues this morning from 3am for LEGO limited edition gift, I’ve seen loads of guests show up to our car park and key retailers.
“We’ve had some great feedback and adrenaline has really kicked in.
“We’ve been speaking to all of our retail partners and asking whatever you’ve got in mind in development for 2022 and beyond - bring that here.
“For Edinburgh and Scotland to have something like this is sensational and this is just the start of the journey. We’ve got 10 more brands opening in July, literally something happening every fortnight, every month, between now and October, November.
“Harrods beauty we’ve announced this week which will open before Christmas. There will always be a reason to visit St James Quarter now - and throughout 2022 as well.”
The galleria-style centre is light, bright, and airy - and lit up once the shroud of clouds parted for an afternoon of sunshine, which was the perfect weather for those taking full advantage of the Lillet Spritz Garden set up at the front of St James Quarter.
The spritz garden, which has popped up for the summer as a partnership between Edinburgh Cocktail Week and St James Quarter.
The buzz of the opening only grew throughout the day as shoppers showed up from far and wide for a momentous first day of trading.
St James Quarter is open from 9am until 8pm Monday - Saturday and 10am until 6pm on Sunday.