Revamp for city thoroughfare
George St poised for £28m ‘Las Ramblas’ makeover
One of Scotland’s most popular shopping and commercial thoroughfares – George Street in Edinburgh – is being targeted for a £28 million makeover that will turn it into a part-pedestrianised area.
Consultants Ironside Farrar – the company behind Falkirk’s Kelpies – have drawn up plans which will provide more space for outdoor dining and year-round entertainment.
George St, until recent years home to mainly professional services businesses and commercial property, is now also a key retail and leisure destination with popular bars and nightclubs.
However, the road and paving is in poor condition and the area is judged to be due an upgrade that would make it more appealing to visitors and residents alike.
The vision is to provide Edinburgh with a version of Las Ramblas in Barcelona and the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris.
But the project will take at least six years to complete, with the plan due to go out to consultation. The city council also has to find the money at a time when cuts are being imposed and parking charges increased.
Julian Farrar, director of Ironside Farrar, described it as “the greatest space in the New Town”. The firm’s plans propose a more integrated approach to vehicle and foot traffic, and the removal of the central parking lane.
However, city councillors are unlikely to order a ban on vehicles which will be welcomed by retailers who will want no further barriers to trade. Instead, the plan will attempt to maintain some vehicular access while making the area more attractive for shoppers and leisure visitors.
The plan follows a year-long pilot project introduced in September 2014 which reduced traffic access and provided outdoor dining facilities which met with a mixed reaction. During the winter the pavilions were barely used.
Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said George Street needs to adapt to differing needs at different times of the year.