As project reaches half-way point...
St James ‘will weather retail storm’ says project adviser
Half-way there: Construction is well under way from five storeys below ground where there will be a 1,600-vehicle car park. Four more storeys, for 150 apartments, will be added to the left side to the height of the crane’s cabin (Pic: Terry Murden)
Edinburgh’s new shopping and leisure quarter is marking the half-way point towards completion with expectations that it will weather the retail storm.
The 850,000 sq ft development is the biggest building project in Britain and the developer TH Real Estate says it is on schedule to bring 85 shops and 20 eating outlets to the city as planned by October 2020.
A leasing launch was taking place in London today to introduce the scheme to retailers and retail agents and a second is being held in Edinburgh on Wednesday.
Already signed up is Next for 54,000 sq ft, while the later phase of the £1 billion project will include an Everyman Cinema and two hotels.
Mike Prentice: ‘lots of interest’ (pic: Terry Murden)
“None that I can confirm at the moment,” he said. “Let’s just say there is a lot of interest.”
He said he did not expect the scheme to be impacted by the current crisis in the high street which has seen a number of big name retailers close stores as consumers move online.
“Edinburgh has always been somewhat short of retail and played second fiddle to Glasgow so there is room for more.”
Looking towards Leith Street. The first building in the new crescent is just visible to the right of the crane. (pic: Terry Murden)
He admitted there would be some displacement and even Next may reduce its space elsewhere in the city.
He said the places that will suffer most from changes in shopping habits are the ‘squeezed middle’ – the middle-sized towns caught between the big cities where there is lots of choice and the small towns and villages where shoppers can park outside the shop, or browse among local boutique shops.
“There are fewer retailers in business today than when we started this project (about 10 years ago) but capital cities will always attract shoppers.”
The James Craig buildings overlooking the site, which survived the 1970s demolition of the original square, will be converted to serviced apartments with a tunnel connecting them to one of the hotels. An additional floor is planned for this block.