A £45 million leisure complex set to open off the Royal Mile could help spark life into the network of closes running from the famous Old Town thoroughfare.
A total of 29 apartments, up to five restaurants, a bar and new office space is set to completed at Advocate’s Close by June, transforming one of the historic precinct’s hidden lanes into a commercial destination.
Scaffolding at the regeneration project was due to start being removed this week.
The development has been built across a mix of 11 tightly packed buildings that includes a new 208-room hotel from German chain Motel One.
The commercial development is due to open in time for this year’s Edinburgh Festival.
The Chris Stewart Group – the developer behind the project – wants the multi-million works to be used as a model for injecting life into lanes connected to the Royal Mile.
City leaders last month released a blueprint for Edinburgh’s historic street, with proposals to make the Mile more pedestrian-friendly to benefit tourists, traders and residents and to encourage commercial ventures other than “tartan tat”.
The Advocate’s Close redevelopment, situated opposite St Giles’ Cathedral, was started in 2009 and has been built across about 140,000sq ft of floor space.
Chris Stewart Group development manager Andy Rennick said: “Our central aim is revitalise this area of the Old Town and an important part of that will include looking at signage and lighting to encourage people to explore the world off the Royal Mile.”
Pedestrians would be able to access the leisure hub via either Advocate’s, Roxburgh or Mary King’s closes.
Chris Stewart Group is in discussions with the council about using street lights to make the lane entrances more welcoming.
People renting the upper floor apartments and penthouses will have panoramic views of Princes Street.
The original building that housed the Evening News printing press situated in Advocate’s Close has been retained.
The overhaul has been achieved without using large cranes or heavy plant machinery in what is believed to be a first for a major regeneration project in the Old Town.
Chris Stewart, left, the developers’ chief executive, said: “We have designed in open spaces and a new ‘square’ as well as ways to create vistas from the top of the close out and over Princes Street Gardens beyond.
“The serviced apartments and restaurants emerge from the solid remains of 15th-century Edinburgh, rising above the rooftops to offer a unique 360-degree aspect of the city using materials that will stand the test of modern times and tastes.”
Construction works have revealed buried interconnecting passageways linking Advocate’s Close to Roxburgh Close.
One of the passageways will be used as a feature piece in the main restaurant, with exposed brick work and 15th-century wall panels also retained.
Royal Mile Business Association chairman Gary Still said the Advocate’s Close redevelopment was great for the city and the regeneration of the closes in the Old Town.
City economy convener Councillor Frank Ross said: “It has always been the aspiration of the city to make good use of the historic spaces off the Royal Mile.”