The massive transformation of the St James Centre into a thriving new retail and residential hub will not be completed until 2018, it emerged today.
The proposed £850 million “St James Quarter” scheme was widely expected to be completed in 2016.
But site developer Henderson Global Investors today confirmed that the residential elements of the scheme will not be finished until two years later.
The shopping centre is expected to remain open until early in 2013 – a year later than originally scheduled – but the developer insists that the retail elements of the scheme are still on track to be completed in 2016 as originally planned.
A spokesman for the St James Quarter said: “We have always made it clear that we are on course for an opening of the shopping centre in 2016, and that date remains on schedule.
“2018 is the projected date of the completion of the entire St James Quarter project, which is mainly the conclusion of the residential phase over the retail.
“The aim is to keep the shopping centre trading for as long as possible whilst aiming to deliver the new shopping centre for 2016. We are working towards that, currently undertaking numerous pre-development matters which by necessity take time with a project as complex as this. Each of these has the potential to have an impact on timing and programme.
“We remain confident of the retail and leisure demand for the project.”
The St James Quarter scheme is seen as a key development for Edinburgh’s city centre and is expected to breathe new life into the east end.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “The fact that Henderson Global remain committed to developing the St James Quarter demonstrates that, despite tough economic conditions, Edinburgh is still seen as an exceptional investment proposition.”
The 13-acre scheme is expected to include up to 90 shops, at least one hotel and a series of apartments. Full details of the specific mix of uses has still to be finalised.
The original outline planning application included around 15,000 square feet of office space but that has now been dropped from the proposals.
Issues still to be resolved include discussions with retailers that have leases within the existing centre that run beyond 2013, when the centre is scheduled to close.
Graham Bell, a spokesman for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “In the present climate we have to be realistic and, for a major project like this, a five-year work programme is not surprising.
“You can appreciate any caution from the developer in this climate but two parts of the project are retail and tourism and they are sectors that have continued to do well, so we are pleased that the developer is still committed to this.”