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Demolition of St James to begin within weeks


St James Centre (photo by Terry Murden)

Delayed work under way

Demolition of the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh is due to start within weeks following a summer delay caused by contractual issues.

The arcades and car park have been closed and the area around the centre is now blocked to traffic. It is understood that demolition will begin within eight weeks.

A deal was reached at the weekend that sees Dutch pension asset manager APG buy a 75% stake in the scheme, leaving developer TH Real Estate with the remaining shares.

The John Lewis department store at the eastern end of the development will remain open throughout demolition and building of the £850m retail, hotel and residential development which will replace it.

John Lewis will temporarily lose 30,000 sq ft of trading floor from the current 160,000 sq ft. When it is complete the floorspace will increase to 165,000 sq ft.

John Lewis had threatened to vacate the centre when it was initially told it would lose more than 50,000 sq ft during construction. A compromise was reached late last year.

Some departments will be moved around and operate from smaller areas to accommodate building work, but all 640 staff will be retained. A new trading floor on level five will include a new restaurant and consumer electronics department. New entrances have been created at street level.

Building work on the new structure is already under way in Leith Street where the footbridge is also due to come down. The council is understood to be seeking alternative use for the structure.

The new development is the biggest urban regeneration project in Scotland. It will include four floors of shops, 30 cafés

and restaurants, a multi-screen arthouse cinema, 250 apartments and a controversial ‘ribbon’ hotel (pictured above) with 250 beds which has been criticised by heritage groups for its potentially adverse impact on one of the world’s most famous townscapes.

Retail and property experts, however, believe the scheme will push Edinburgh up the league table of retail destinations from 13th to 8th place and that the new hotel, to be operated by W Hotels & Resorts, will become a new symbol on the skyline.

Laing O’Rourke has been appointed as the main contractor for the development.

> The redevelopment of Baxter’s Place opposite the John Lewis store is also nearing completion.

A four-star hotel, to be known at the Courtyard Edinburgh, and run by Marriott, will have 240 bedrooms and is due to open at Christmas.

The scheme, by the Chris Stewart Group, has involved conversion of three townhouses, one of which was owned by the lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson whose career is honoured in paintings, technical drawings and light fittings.

A bust of him – reproduced from the original at the Northern Lighthouse Board – will feature on the hotel’s main stairs.






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