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Capital development

In its former life, the St James Centre was a 1970s eyesore on the side of Edinburgh’s historic new town. Harry Trotter investigates the new Edinburgh St James development.

In 2006 Nuveen purchased the site, and so began a 10-year process of planning and design which involved the upper echelons within Scottish Government and Edinburgh Council. Some 13 years later, the development is now breaking into Edinburgh’s historic skyline.

At 1.7 million sq. ft. and valued in excess of £1 billion, Edinburgh St James is one of the largest and most significant regeneration projects underway in the UK – and the largest city-centre development in decades.

Located in the east end of Edinburgh’s New town, the development aims to redefine retail-led mixed-use regeneration and reposition Edinburgh as one of the most exciting, forward-thinking and sought-after destinations for retail and leisure operators in Europe.

Edinburgh St James will comprise 850,000 sq. ft. of retail space, the UK’s second ever W hotel, 152 unique apartments, 30 restaurants, a Roomzzz aparthotel and the city’s first Everyman cinema with 1,600 off-street parking spaces – not to mention the nine flexible events spaces to host Edinburgh’s rich cultural activity.

It will provide long-term benefits to Edinburgh, pushing the city up six places to eighth on the UK retail ranking as well as creating over 3,000 permanent full-time jobs and up to 5,000 jobs during the construction period, which is now more than 50% complete.

Ed Webb, director of development at Edinburgh St James for the Real Estate said:

This development is a game-changer. We have some fantastic names already confirmed, including Next, John Lewis, a flagship for Boots and many more. We’re having a number of conversations with other interested occupiers which we’ll be announcing in the coming months.

The biggest challenge has been maintaining the efficient continued trading of John Lewis – which is expanding as part of the development - while we have demolished in part above, around and excavated beneath them.

We‘re confident that Edinburgh St James will provide a diverse and appealing shopping experience, comprising well-known national and international high street names, aspirational and high-end brands, which cater to a diverse range of consumers, from locals to tourists and visitors from the rest of the UK, Europe and the world.

Edinburgh is forecast to achieve a £2.5 billion consumer market potential by 2021, and while it is no secret that the retail market is currently struggling, this represents an evolution as opposed to ‘the end’.

The retail and leisure element of Edinburgh St James will complete in October 2020, followed by the completion of the W hotel and residential aspects in 2021.

While the final design of the hotel has divided opinion, whatever your thoughts, the positive impact on Scotland’s capital cannot be ignored. We await with interest the wider influence on the Edinburgh market.