Over the centuries, Edinburgh's landscape has changed dramatically. From the medieval, meandering streets of the Old Town to the neoclassical splendour of the Georgian New Town, the capital has become a master of reinvention, preserving its heritage yet always staying ahead of the curve. It is a city where the old and new sit beautifully side-by-side, with almost 5,000 listed buildings and contemporary architectural highlights such as the Scottish Parliament.
The city is now entering a new phase in its development with three major on-going projects that will radically alter the landscape once again.
Edinburgh St James
Considered by many to be a blight on Edinburgh's cityscape, the existing 1970s St James Centre, slated for demolition, will be replaced by a new £850 million office and retail space that will help Edinburgh rival its neighbour, Glasgow, as Scotland's best city for shopping. Across 42,500 square metres and three crescent-shaped floors, the Edinburgh St James will feature premium office space, an apart-hotel, a theatre and 138 apartments, as well as prime retail space. The new development is expected to attract world-leading designer stores and brands, including Abercrombie and Fitch, J Crew, Nike, Kenneth Cole, Tom Ford and Sephora.
A central part of the plans is a luxury hotel with a glass ceiling that is likely to house a rooftop restaurant with spectacular views of the Firth of Forth. Council Leader, Cllr Andrew Burns, says: "There is no doubt that in almost every economic arena Edinburgh punches above its weight but the one area where it could do better is in its retail offer. I'm entirely confident that Edinburgh St James - as it will be known - will draw us up to comparable status with our major competitors and that has got to be extremely good news."
The Edinburgh St James, scheduled for completion in 2018, was made possible through an innovative funding initiative called the regeneration accelerator model (RAM), in which the Scottish Government offers loans based on the estimated future income from business rates. Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says: "This government is determined to invest in Scotland's infrastructure - both to stimulate growth in the short term and lay the foundations for long-term success. Through schemes such as RAM we are increasing public investment in Scotland's infrastructure, which will create overall gains for the economy as a whole."
East Princes Street
The east end of Edinburgh's main shopping thoroughfare is set to be regenerated into a busy hub of shops, bars and art galleries. The winding maze of lanes around West Register Street, next to Princes Street, could become Edinburgh's answer to London's Covent Garden under the City of Edinburgh Council's plans.
"It's a really interesting place in its own right, and the plans are designed to let people experience it."Cllr Frank Ross
The council expects to receive £97 million in investment for the development which could generate £55 million for the economy and create 250 jobs. Following the launch of the trams this summer footfall through the lanes has rapidly increased, with a tram stop situated nearby on St Andrew Square. The opening of a flagship Apple Store opposite the Balmoral Hotel is also likely to increase traffic through a previously under-used part of the city.
City economic leader, Cllr Frank Ross, says: "The idea is to have a nice pedestrian area you can walk through, little cafés, perhaps some small independent shops or art galleries, artisan jewellers, and some places for people to sit and enjoy the gardens. It's a really interesting place in its own right, and the plans are designed to let people experience it."
St Andrew Square
Work is currently under way on a £75 million development in St Andrew Square. Standard Life Investments Pooled Pension Property Fund and joint venture partner, Peveril Securities, are at the helm of the project which is likely to be finished in 2016.
The B-listed building on the site, which has been vacant for more than five years, will make way for 105,000 square feet of offices and 85,000 square feet of retail and residential space. Large retail spaces are highly sought after in the city centre and this development will feature double-height shop fronts. David Stewart, Fund Manager of the Standard Life Investments Pooled Property Fund, said: "This development is a terrific opportunity to capitalise on the current constrained supply and improving occupier demand within Edinburgh. The property is in an absolutely prime location and we will be creating a first class long term investment for our investors."
The new, bold space - which has received resounding support from key stakeholders - has been designed by CDA and Gareth Hoskins Architects (GHA). The City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Scotland and Architecture + Design Scotland (A+DS) have been involved in the planning to ensure the design is in keeping with Edinburgh's historic cityscape.