A leading independent property consultancy with expertise covering a broad spectrum of property related services

What an Address: What a Street

Jamie Thain on the landmark sale of the iconic Over-Seas House by Galbraith for client the Royal Over-Seas League - and the evolution of Princes Street.

Over the years we have bought and sold many properties of all different shapes and sizes for many different uses.  As we have highlighted in previous articles property fundamentals, including location, are always very important.

From time to time we come across a building which is just a little bit special and evokes that basic love of property which is after all the reason why many of us entered the profession to begin with.

Last year Galbraith were instructed by our client the Royal Over-Seas League (ROSL) to sell one such iconic building, their former Edinburgh Clubhouse, at 100 Princes Street in Edinburgh.

Our client had owned the building for 90 years and as such, prospective buyers were offered a rare chance to purchase a landmark redevelopment opportunity, which is centrally located between Frederick Street and Castle Street with unrivalled views over Princes Street Gardens to Edinburgh Castle.

Arranged over seven floors and extending to 19,281 sq ft, Over-Seas House was originally the Windsor Hotel, a temperance establishment, designed in 1879 by Robert Patterson and formed part of the significant Victorian building programme along Princes Street. 

ROSL, a non-profit membership organisation, bought the former hotel requiring renovations, in 1929. In 1930 the Duke of York opened the new club premises. It was the first mixed club in the city and boasted 20 bedrooms, a bar and restaurant with all furnishings produced and made in Scotland. From 1930 it became a popular centre for Commonwealth visitors, with the prime ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand all staying there.

Our client had therefore had a very long and proud history with the building and so Galbraith were delighted to be entrusted with the sale on their behalf.

Interestingly, 100 Princes Street is one of only two period buildings on the whole of Princes Street which is still in its original use.  

The opportunity attracted a high level of interest from hoteliers, student accommodation operators, residential developers and serviced apartment operators. In total our team carried out more than 40 viewings and came to know the building very well.  

The property has been sold to a high quality international hotel owner operator who plans to carry out an extensive refurbishment of the building. It is great to know that the building is in safe hands and that it will be given a new lease of life under new ownership.

It is also good news for Princes Street which is facing its toughest retail conditions for years and is under pressure to reimagine itself due to intense competition from the soon to be completed Edinburgh St James (shopping centre). The 1.7 million sq ft retail-led development at the east end of the city centre will open its doors later this year and will include 85 new stores, over 35 food and beverage offers, Scotland’s first W Hotel, a luxury Roomzzz Aparthotel, a boutique Everyman Cinema and an extended flagship John Lewis department store. A number of long standing Princes Street retailers, including Next, New Look and Jenners have already confirmed that they will be moving to the new centre.

Despite this, progress is being made in Princes Street’s evolution. The former House of Fraser department store at the West end of the street is currently transformed into a multi-million pound, seven storey, flagship Jonny Walker visitor centre. Plans are also being made for the redevelopment and total restoration of Jenners, Edinburgh’s most famous shop and arguably the most significant historic building on Princes Street. The plans for the building will see a hotel, cafes and rooftop restaurant and bar replace the existing department store alongside a number of luxury shops.

 

It will inevitably take time for Princes Street’s role in the city to evolve completely but these and other significant projects are a great start and we look forward to seeing the redevelopment of 100 Princess Street adding to the iconic street’s future success.