Over the past few years, Leith has been quietly reinventing itself as a vibrant part of Edinburgh. The resurgence of quality bars and restaurants, and an influx of new residents and businesses choosing to base themselves in the area culminated in Leith being named the second “hippest” place in Europe by TravelSupermarket earlier this year.
While the travel website’s UK Hip Hang-out Neighbourhood Index rates places on their desirability as a destination for a city break, many of the criteria taken into consideration would also tempt businesses to relocate.
Firms are more conscious than ever that in order to attract the best staff they need to be located in areas with amenities to suit.
Leith – described by VisitScotland’s regional director for Edinburgh and the Lothians Manuela Calchini, as “one of the trendiest places in Scotland” with “a fantastic range of cool bars and innovative restaurants, which has become intrinsically linked with pop culture” – is certainly attracting more than just weekend visitors.
In terms of office take-up, Peter Fraser, associate director at commercial property consultancy GVA says: “It’s clear that more and more businesses are looking to Leith.
“In 2016, take-up was 49,185sq ft, up from 31,000sq ft in 2015, an increase of over 35 per cent.
“This includes a number of occupiers who have relocated from elsewhere in the city such as Mearns & Co and Market Gravity.”
Fraser believes the take-up rate in Leith is being aided by the scarcity of commercial space elsewhere in Edinburgh.
He explains: “The area is also poised to benefit from diminishing stock level in the city centre and already many occupiers with central requirements are indicating they will consider Leith if they are unable to secure the right premises at the right price in town.
“There is no doubt that the lack of good quality, affordable space in the city centre has driven occupiers to look outside the centre of Edinburgh.”
According to GVA’s figures, on top of its other charms, Leith’s comparative affordability is a major factor in attracting firms which are looking to relocate within the city.
Fraser says: “Presently rents for refurbished open-plan space in Leith are around 40 per cent less than the city centre, so there is already a compelling financial argument for Leith.”
Residential property prices are lower than in Edinburgh city centre, with an average selling price of £295,000 compared with an average of £340,000 across the city as a whole, so the ability to both work and live in Leith has definite attractions for employees.
Services are being improved and extended in line with the growing population, including the £1.2 million redevelopment of the former Leith Central Station building on the junction with Duke Street which will open as the new Leith Walk Surgery in May.
For commuters, the area is well connected by public transport and there are possible improvements in the pipeline.
Fraser says: “With City Deal money on the way for the area and expected infrastructure investments that theoretically could see a tram extension to Leith, there is a real chance that Leith could become a true office destination worthy of rivalling west Edinburgh.
“It is a real alternative to the city centre where rents are rising and stock levels rapidly reducing.”