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Store 'to quit'

£50m hotel ‘hub’ to replace Debenhams in Princes St

Debenhams store Edinburgh

The department store chain is expected to leave Princes Street

UPDATED 20th July: Debenhams is expected to quit Edinburgh’s premier shopping street to make way for a £50 million ‘hub’, including a hotel, dining and event space.

The troubled department store chain is said to be intent on moving out of the Princes Street unit which is owned by pensions and investment company Legal & General.

Plans have been unveiled for a four star hotel and rooftop spa with views of the castle.

Legal & General confirmed that on behalf of the L&G UK Property Fund, it will invest in a “major regeneration project” that will create a new hotel and city centre ‘hub’ including shopping, dining, hospitality, leisure and event space at 109-112 Princes Street.

“Currently an under-utilised retail premises, Legal & General’s vision will transform 109-112 Princes Street, a building of significant architectural heritage and history in Edinburgh, into a vibrant destination, attracting both residents and tourists to make use of the new facilities,” said the company in a statement.

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“With unparalleled views directly onto Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle, Legal & General’s plans for Princes Street will create a major new destination in Edinburgh, delivering the footfall Princes Street needs to continue to thrive.”

Legal & General has invested billions of pounds into schemes across the UK, in cities such as Cardiff, Salford, Newcastle and Sunderland.

“Using its varied capital streams, Legal & General is committed to reshaping the urban landscape by recycling hard-earned UK savings and pensions into real assets which promote job creation and can support cities’ post-Covid economic bounce back.”

The proposals for 109-112 Princes Street include a Sky Bar, Basement Spa, ‘fine casual’ dining and a new shopping close, linking through to Rose Street; all open to the public. It is envisaged that the plans will help realise the council’s long held ambitions to create a café culture in Edinburgh’s most famous street.

The Upper Upscale Hotel will have its own independent identity, reflecting the energy, culture and history of Edinburgh.

Matt Jarvis, senior fund manager at Legal & General, said:  “As normality begins to return around the world, it has never been more important that we support the UK’s cities in continuing to adapt, change and innovate; supporting their economic recovery and continuing to promote them as attractive places to live, work and visit.

For the L&G UK Property Fund, this represents a exceptional opportunity

– Matt Jarvis, L&G

“Our vision for Princes Street will do just that, whilst securing these important buildings as a vibrant hub in the centre of one of the world’s great cities.

“For the L&G UK Property Fund, this represents a exceptional opportunity, in line with its strategy to diversify into more operational and alternative assets, and offering a platform to drive forward value for investors.”

There will be an online public consultation, rather than a public event due to Covid-19 restrictions. A planning application will follow the consultation. The opening of the development will depend on the timescale for any planning approval.

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While the plan is not likely to come to fruition until 2024 it will represent another step in the changing face and function of Princes Street.

The House of Fraser store at the west end is bring turned into a Johnnie Walker whisky experience, while luxury hotel group Red Carnation has acquired the former Royal Over-Seas League private club at 100 Princes Street. It will return to its original purpose, having been opened in 1879 as the Windsor Hotel.

New Look is vacating its modern unit built just a few years ago at the western end of the street and Whitbread wants to expand its neighbouring Premier Inn hotel into the unit to create 59 rooms and a 387 sqm ground floor restaurant.

Background

Legal & General owns 109-112 Princes Street which is currently occupied by Debenhams. The store extends over three separate and listed properties, namely:

  • 109-111 Princes Street
  • 112 Princes Street (the former Conservative Club), and
  • 144-150 Rose Street

Princes Street has historically undergone major change and challenges in the past with the Lord Provost’s 1943 Commission on City Development bemoaning that the street was in the eyes of many, ‘Irremediable’, with its ‘Monotonous original and chaotic modern frontage’.

The council considered the development of the ‘Princes Street Galleries’ project in the late 90s before the proposal was withdrawn.

In 2007, the council’s ‘String of Pearls’ initiative bemoaned the fact that 60% of the upper floors in Princes Street lay empty at that time.

In 2011 the City Council considered proposals by Jan Gehl to create a more ‘pedestrian friendly future for the city centre including Princes Street where a ‘Café Culture’ was envisioned.

The Council is currently implementing its City Centre Transformation Project which is increasing the priority being given to walkers and cyclists.

M&S to close Scottish store, announce job cuts, as more restaurants shut



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