It’s been a railway goods yard, a car park and for decades nothing but a vacant gap site.
But with a new buyer keen to press on with building, the missing piece of the Haymarket jigsaw may not be that far off.
With a price tag of nearly £50 million the empty space behind Haymarket Station was snapped up by M&G Real Estate who are expected to plough on with plans for a major hotel and office development on the four-acre site.
Faith in the community for the development ever reaching completion has ebbed and flowed over the many years it has lain empty.
But renewed vigour from M&G, who already boast the construction of Quartermile 3 and Quartermile 4 in their portfolio of work, has energised local businesses and residents into visualising the final product.
Wendy Dickson, manager at famous pub Ryries next to Haymarket Station said the area has been earmarked as up and coming for years and believes this is the final piece of the puzzle.
She said: “It has been empty for so long – it would be good to get something in there and if it brings more people to the area and through the doors then that is only a good thing.
“If they do build the offices that will also be a great boost to the area – it will definitely be an advantage for us and everyone around here in general.
“Also tourist wise, Haymarket has been ‘up and coming’ now for years and this is what it’s lacking. It really is the missing piece of the puzzle.”
The £200 million scheme – significantly scaled back from previous proposals for the site – will see the creation of new shops, office blocks, cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as 165 “serviced apartments.”
Facing the site on Morrison Street is gin emporium the Jolly Botanist where assistant manager Jide Sosimi said healthy competition is nothing but a good thing.
“It’s good for us and it’s good for the area because it’s a big space that’s just been left empty for a while so having something in there is good for the businesses – particularly a new hotel,” he said. “Guests of the hotel will have more options as well, in terms of eating and drinking choices in the local area rather than just the hotel.
Jide, who used to work at The Balmoral said there had been a similar situation when a new hotel opened opposite the The Balmoral, above the Apple store.
He added: “We weren’t concerned because as a business what you’re trying to do is maintain your standards for your level of service, and if you’re providing quality food and quality drink and quality service competition shouldn’t affect your business.
“If a find dining restaurant popped up that could make a difference but what is planned for the site won’t affect us – it’s not the same market. We always welcome challenges, it makes thing fun!
“Because if you’re constantly doing the same thing then things get stale but competition makes you up your game. So for us it’s good – it means we can push further.”
Tenants already signed up include Tesco, Pret A Manger and Prezzo, as well as apart-hotel operator Staycity.
Ryan Cram, senior front of house at popular Chinese restaurant Chop Chop said he knows the management are pleased with the plans for ditching the hoarding and building a development that will attract more custom.
He said: “The development will bring an influx in people which can only be a good for us. I know co-owner Roy King is excited because currently we have a lot of people who come to the restaurant from the nearby hotels to eat here – so more can only be good for business.
“If they opened up their own restaurant it could result in some healthy competition but because we’ve been here for a while and we have made a name for ourselves it wouldn’t be a negative. It’s been an eyesore for years so it’s good to finally see something being done about it.”
Local residents said they appreciated efforts to keep the community up to speed on the plans and hoped to continue a close relationship with the new development firm.
A spokeswoman for the Dalry Colonies Residents’ Association said: “We have enjoyed a close working relationship with the developers of the Haymarket site over the years. We look forward to working with M&G and finding out more about their vision for the site.
“We are encouraged by their commitment to put environmental excellence and wellbeing at the forefront of the design. It continues to be our desire to see the creation of a world-class development for Edinburgh that responds in an innovative and sensitive way to the site’s surroundings and which puts people at its heart.”
Another resident, Sarah Cow, who lives opposite the station said she was excited for the area to be complete. “It would help establish the area and add value and more amenities as well as giving Haymarket a general buzz.”
The appointment of a developer partner looms as the first step for the new owners.
A timeline for construction works and an expected start date are yet to be announced.
Interserve had been working alongside Irish firm Tiger on building the development at the heart of Edinburgh’s financial and commercial centre since 2013.
The former owners had been forced to push back the start date for construction works from the spring of last year to 2018 after railway tunnels running under the site needed to be strengthened in an unforeseen delay.
The mixed-use scheme already has planning permission for three contemporary office buildings, retail space, a 190-bedroom hotel and a 163-unit apart-hotel.
However, new investors have not ruled out minor changes and putting their own stamp on it.
Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said the new owners shows how much confidence investors have in office-led development in the city. “Our city has a highly skilled workforce, a resilient and diverse economy, and is a fantastic place to live and work. This shows that Edinburgh still attracts high levels of investment and continues to create jobs and opportunities.
“There was lots of interest in this site and we’ve come out the other side of this competitive process with an investor and developer who we know will deliver for this important part of the city, and beyond.”