The team behind Edinburgh’s £1 billion St James development have revealed a vision to make the site a community hub capable of hosting a range of festival events.
From a rooftop cinema to an underground food market, the city’s east end could be revolutionised, bringing the nine event spaces within the site to life all year round.
With construction of the project now passing the half way stage, the developers are determined to build a legacy which provides a positive lifestyle for the people who live and work in the city.
Developers have spoken of delving into the Capital’s extensive festival calendar to attract residents and tourists alike to the innovative mixed-use facility, even being able to host its own music festival.
Once finished, the site will feature 850,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including 85 new shops, more than 30 new restaurants, an Everyman Cinema, 152 apartments, a striking 12-storey hotel – W Edinburgh, a 75 room Roomzzz Aparthotel, and three new public squares.
The retail and leisure element at Edinburgh St James is on course to meet October 2020 target, followed by full scheme completion in 2021.
The firm behind the St James, Nuveen Real Estate says the 1.7 million sq ft development is one of the largest and most significant regeneration projects currently under way in the UK.
Martin Perry, director of Development at Edinburgh St James, said: “As part of our events strategy, we are reviewing a number of potential festival options to bring to life the nine events spaces across Edinburgh St James.
“Our plan is to make our all of our event spaces extremely flexible and easily accessible for efficient installation of all types of events. We want to ensure that Edinburgh St James integrates completely into the wider city offering.
“This is why we want to continue to build on Edinburgh’s famous calendar of events and cultural highlights, looking to add events like a music festival.
“It’s one of the reasons why we have hand-picked our current partners in W Edinburgh, Roomzzz Aparthotel and Everyman, in order to fit with a vision for Edinburgh St James that blends seamlessly into the city.”
The majority of the ongoing work is hidden away behind the wooden hoardings. But inside, led by the project’s main contractor, Laing O’Rourke, an average of 500 workers are on site daily ensuring the project is smashing targets.
The St James development is beginning to take shape, with the framework for the shopping area and the centrepiece hotel’s lift shaft in place.
The hotel’s “ribbon” is to be made of 800 individual pieces wrapping around the 12 storeys creating a seamless effect.
Discussions have been taking place behind the scenes with potential retailers to lease units within the development, though the identity of these have yet to be revealed.
Mr Perry admitted the process of signing up international retailers has been made more difficult due the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
He added: “It has inevitably put a huge amount of uncertainty into the market and that has gone into the minds of consumers and affects retailers with their decisions.
“Many international retailers are susceptible to this with things like currency fluctuating, costs of labour, business rates etc making it a lot tougher.
“We’ve had to increase our resource just to cope with things being far harder to get through a lot of this. No one has any answers at the moment and that’s the real difficulty.
“This has been our primary focus in the past few months and we’ve been getting a lot of attention so things are looking positive.”
The structure at one end of the project is almost complete including a car park featuring 1,600 spaces which could be utilised as a food market.
It is understood the car park has the capacity to include up to 200 electric car-charging points, subject to demand, with the possibility of discounted rates for city centre residents.
“We have a special focus on sustainability and what we can do to boost the city,” said Mr Perry. “We want to make a big difference to people’s lives and build something for the future. We’ve had a great winter and in many aspects we’ve got ahead of ourselves.
“Our aim is for Edinburgh St James to redefine retail-led mixed-use regeneration in this country, with the development repositioning Edinburgh as one of the most exciting, forward-thinking and sought after destinations for retail and leisure operators in Europe.”