Watch: Ground-level work has started on new Edinburgh St James

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While it may still be difficult to imagine how it might look when finished, builders on the site of the new Edinburgh St James have now started construction above ground.

The demolition programme is complete, paving the way for the new building work which has now commenced for the 1.7 million sq ft development – marking a major new phase in the regeneration of the east end of Edinburgh. Four tower cranes have arrived on site – including one of the largest tower cranes in Europe – to help piece together the giant mall.

Construction of the new Edinburgh St James has now begun at ground level

Construction of the new Edinburgh St James has now begun at ground level

Led by the project’s main contractor Laing O’Rourke, the construction process will see 200,000 tonnes of reinforced concrete being used to build the development, with over 5,000 workers on site throughout the duration of the build.

Open to the public in 2020, the new centre is one of the largest regeneration projects currently under way in the UK.

Comprising 850,000 sq ft of retail space, including 85 new shops and 32 food units, an Everyman Cinema, up to 150 new homes, a five-star W Hotel, a Roomzzz Aparthotel and three new public squares, developers say Edinburgh St James will “revolutionise and regenerate the city’s East End”.

Project director Martin Perry said: “The start of construction marks an exciting new phase in the progress of Edinburgh St James.

“The next stage of the construction process will, over time, start to see buildings coming out of the ground and will allow the public to get a taste of what is to come in 2020.

“Edinburgh St James is going to be a major new landmark for the city, opening up the East End of Edinburgh and creating a truly inspiring place for people to live, shop and play.

“We look forward to making further announcements about progress on site ahead of the opening in 2020.”

Contractors Laing O’Rourke say they have also managed the environmental impact of the project as part of the scheme’s ongoing commitment to the wider Edinburgh community, economy and environment.

Of the people working on the project, 79 per cent live in the local area, 60 per cent of construction value has been sourced locally, and 98 per cent of non-hazardous construction waste diverted from landfill.

The team has also undertaken over 480 hours of volunteering on local curriculum engagement activities and community engagement and supported over 230 days of work experience and pre-employment opportunities – reaching almost half of the agreed target of 500 days.

Tim Kelly, project director, Laing O’Rourke, said: “The level of progress onsite since the former St James Shopping centre closed almost 18 months ago has been remarkable. We have put the local community at the heart of the development and have ensured that this is demonstrated through our continued commitment towards community engagement and a variety of local sustainability initiatives.”

Cllr Gavin Barrie added: “This is a key milestone in the Edinburgh St James Project which, when open, will transform the city centre, deliver over 3,000 new full time permanent jobs.”