A NEW £35 million development in the Old Town – boasting a 257-bed hotel and major chain outlets – will help to “gentrify” the South Bridge area, it has been claimed.
Andy Jansons, managing director of property firm Jansons, said the SoCo complex would breathe new life into South Bridge and the Cowgate by attracting “quality retailers” to a district previously popular with pound shops and charity outlets.
The property chief behind the regeneration project said the firm is on target to hand over to occupants including hotelier Ibis, Sainsbury’s, nightspot La Belle Angele and an unnamed coffee chain by November, despite a four-week slip in the timetable.
South Bridge has been called the city’s first purpose-built shopping street and was a vibrant commercial district from the 18th century.
Speaking at the official launch of the long-awaited SoCo complex, Mr Jansons said while South Bridge enjoyed high footfall, it had failed to attract destination shops.
He said: “I am already surprised how busy South Bridge is to be honest, there’s a big pedestrian flow there.
“A 257-bed hotel is going to bring a lot of people into South Bridge, a lot more people coming down Blair Street and walking up through the middle of the site to get to the hotel.
“I can see more occupiers coming in and using units to serve people [food] in the hotel and giving more hustle and bustle to the area.
“The idea is that we are creating a new little district. It’s going to upgrade South Bridge and, let’s face it, the rest of South Bridge isn’t looking good at the moment.
“To bring two major occupiers in at this end might gentrify this side of South Bridge and bring in some better quality retailers.”
A new pedestrian link between the Cowgate, South Bridge and Chambers Street will be created. It is expected nearby Hunter Square and Blair Street will reap the rewards of the transformation.
Councillor Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee, said: “The regeneration of SoCo will bring to an end a ten-year period in which the site has blotted Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. I welcome the £35m investment and also welcome the job creation through the new retail and business units.
“With a new, centrally located hotel, I am confident it will further increase Edinburgh’s tourism offer in this part of the Capital.”
Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said: “It’s time we started to concentrate on other areas. This has been a gap site for some time now and it’s great to see it coming back into use.
“It will attract visitors to the area, increase footfall from shoppers and be a real boost to South Bridge and the Cowgate.”