THE transformation of the east end into a top shopping and business district has taken a huge step forward after Standard Life snapped up another prime city centre location.
The insurance giant has bought No 1 St Andrew Square from the Tonstate Group for £15 million in the latest phase of its ambitious redevelopment plans.
The firm controversially bulldozed the nearby B-listed Scottish Provident building on the corner of St Andrew Square to make way for a £75m new complex boasting offices, flats and shops which is now nearing completion.
And following this latest acquisition, it now owns the entire southside of the iconic square after spending £90m over the last two years.
David Stewart, fund manager of the Standard Life Investments Pooled Pension Property Fund, said: “The acquisition of No 1 St Andrew Square underlines our commitment to the continuing regeneration of this part of the city centre.
“We anticipate that the creative design of the offices and the proximity to major transport hubs will prove attractive to a wide range of businesses who wish to be in the best business location in Edinburgh.”
The building includes Tiles Bar and Bistro and the former Barclays Bank on the lower floors plus vacant offices above.
The offices, which have stood empty for some time, are in need of “substantial refurbishment” which will see their footprint expanded 13,561sq ft to 16,000sq ft and the former Barclays Bank is now being converted into a restaurant.
News of the development is yet another boost to the regeneration of the east end, which has seen a series of high- profile projects pursued in recent years.
The Chris Stewart Group (CSG) has lodged plans to transform a neglected maze of city centre back streets into a district of high-class shops, restaurants and businesses as part of the nearby West Register Street scheme.
The £60m revamp is also considered key to the wider redevelopment of the east end, with CSG insisting its scheme will act as a “gateway” to the £850m redevelopment of the St James Centre which is set to be completed by 2020.
Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute, welcomed the move by Standard Life and said it would help secure Edinburgh’s position as a first-class shopping destination.
He said: “It shows Standard Life’s home is obviously in Edinburgh and they are here to stay for the long term.
“They have grown significantly in recent years and, although they are a global player, they have also shown they are rooted and grounded here.
“Standard Life has served Edinburgh well. And St Andrew Square is fast becoming the new Charlotte Square – once the home of major financial institutions in Edinburgh before they outgrew it.
“An area with offices, restaurants and indoor malls with top brands in it is going to be a great asset to Edinburgh. And after languishing in the second division of retail cities in the UK, Edinburgh will at long last be in the premier league.” The new offices will be designed according to “defurb” principles – a modern design trend which means features such as beams and pipework are exposed.
And they will also boast a glass atrium to fit in with the traditional features of the original building. The work on this part of the redevelopment is expected to be finished by March of next year.