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Foster-designed scheme under way

Wraps come off revamped Haymarket development

New public space at Haymarket Edinburgh looking towards the station

Edinburgh’s newest commercial, retail and leisure development was officially unveiled last night, on a site in the west end that has lain derelict for half a century.

Construction of the £350 million Haymarket scheme, by M&G Real Estate and property developer Qmile Group, is now under way and is already attracting “huge interest”.

The revamped design by globally renowned architect Foster + Partners will see more than 380,000 sq ft of much-needed Grade A office space along with hotel accommodation totalling 365 bedrooms and provision for 40,000 sq ft of retail space, equating to about a dozen units.

The four-acre site, a former railway goods yard and later a car park, will comprise five buildings, three of which will be offices and the other two hotels. It is estimated that the office space alone will accommodate up to 4,500 workers.

At the heart of the development will be Haymarket Square, a landscaped public space for the city centre which has been designed to offer leisure and retail opportunities as well as a social and events space.

M&G Real Estate acquired the site in 2018 for £49.1m. Following a tendering process, the main contractor for the first phase is Sir Robert McAlpine which will provide 110,000 sq ft of offices and has a gross development value of £80m.

Up to 500 ‘live’ direct and indirect construction jobs will be supported on the development during the three-year build programme.

Qmile Group has previously worked with M&G Real Estate, Foster + Partners and Sir Robert McAlpine, to deliver the £750m mixed-use Quartermile development, also in Edinburgh city centre.

Much-needed Grade A office space in Morrison Streetbut there is a lot of glass

Commenting on the work starting on site, Qmile Group chief executive, Paul Curran, said: “Our objective is to make Haymarket Edinburgh a world-class place for business, leisure and hospitality. Our work at Quartermile clearly demonstrated how we can deliver complex, high-profile projects, so we are very pleased to reunite the same team on Haymarket Edinburgh.

“The development has been designed to deliver sustainable commercial and societal benefits for the city. We will purposefully create a platform for further economic growth within the capital at Haymarket Edinburgh and provide the city’s residents and visitors with inclusive new public space.

“With work now started on site, the vision for Haymarket Edinburgh is well on its way to becoming a reality.”

He told guests attending a launch event at the Caledonian Waldorf that there had been “huge interest’ in all the buildings from a range of occupiers, though there were no pre-lets.

The development, opposite the Haymarket pub at the junction, will tower over neighbouring properties. The lower block to the right is for two hotels

“We only expect this to increase now we have begun the build programme with the first building, 1 Haymarket Square, scheduled for delivery during the second quarter of 2022.”

M&G Real Estate’s director of asset management, Aaron Pope, said: “Committing to fund the delivery of this prime mixed-use development in Edinburgh city centre was a natural choice and perfectly aligned with our investment approach – providing industry leading, high quality and sustainable business space that integrates seamlessly with the area and provides the kind of environment and facilities to meet modern occupier needs. 

“It will set a new tone for Edinburgh’s office accommodation and deliver a new attractive quarter for the city and all who live and work there.”

Savills and JLL have been appointed as office agents and EYCO and Culverwell as retail agents.

Daily Business comment: This has been a long-neglected plot – vacant since the 1960s – so the city council will be delighted to see it coming to life, and no doubt salivating at the additional income it will bring.

There is a growing need for top quality office accommodation and this development will go some way to filling the shortfall. Already a queue is forming of potential occupiers so it should also command some premier rental values.

However, it may require some getting used to. It is designed by the internationally-renowned Norman Foster practice, and M&G’s Mr Pope claims it “integrates seamlessly with the area”. But Haymarket Edinburgh will divide opinion. The seven-storey blocks will tower over neighbouring property and the vast expanse of glass will be a stark contrast to the stone-built heritage buildings in the West End.

After the long and detailed scrutiny over the quality of cladding to be used on the new St James Centre, to ensure it blended with its historic surroundings, it is surprising that councillors have allowed this vast ‘greenhouse’ to emerge at a key gateway to the city.

Much is being made of creating a new public place, but modern attempts to do this – Festival Square and the cobbled are behind the EICC – have become little more than under-used, windswept open spaces.

What Haymarket has in its favour is that three million commuters pass through the nearby railway station every year. That’s a customer base that hard-pressed retailers and restaurateurs should find appealing.

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