IT’S the former home of the famed lighthouse engineer behind one of the 19th-century’s greatest feats of construction.
Now a forgotten tenement on Baxter’s Place, at the top of Leith Walk, is being transformed into a 240-bed Courtyard by Marriott hotel – opening in December.
Once home to renowned engineer Robert Stevenson, grandfather to Robert Louis Stevenson, the property has lain empty and neglected for more than a decade.
Stevenson – who died on the site in 1850 – worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board and oversaw the development of 20 lighthouses. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the Bell Rock Lighthouse off Angus, often dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World and now the oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse on Earth.
The £20 million hotel will pay tribute to this illustrious past, with a bust of Stevenson by the front door and pictures and paintings detailing his achievements in every room.
The Evening News was given an exclusive tour of the premises earlier this week, as building work enters its final stages and the finishing touches are put in place.
General manager Douglas Winfield said bosses had been “very mindful” of the tenement’s heritage from the beginning.
He added: “It’s not just your typical brand new hotel – it’s got real history. We needed to be sympathetic to that.”
The Marriott will boast a restaurant, bar and dining terrace facing onto the busy street, with 43 rooms in the original Georgian section and 197 in a specially-built extension out back.
Fixtures and fittings will start to be installed next week, and bosses hope to have everything up and running before Christmas.
The building project is being led by the Chris Stewart Group, who are also the architects behind plans to revamp the historic Royal Bank of Scotland building on St Andrew Square.
Mr Winfield said: “People can expect a fantastic quality Marriott product, with the Courtyard brand.
“We’ve got some amazing alfresco-style dining on the terrace, flowing through into the Lantern Room restaurant and bar, where we are offering all-day dining. From a location point of view, this is absolutely fantastic in terms of where we are in relation to the Playhouse and in terms of local residents.”
He said the new eatery and bar – which will sell cocktails and craft beers – would offer something for locals as well as visitors.
He added: “We are not just offering something that is for tourists to come and visit and stay in the hotel – we very much want to embrace the local residents and communities.”
And he rejected any suggestion that the Capital was becoming over-saturated with hotels, adding: “Edinburgh is potentially one of the world’s top destinations to visit, and it’s the gateway to Scotland.
“I think we are in the perfect place to capture what’s happening in the east end.
“We are ahead of the curve, and it’s only exciting what’s happening in this whole area, with the St James Centre and with what the Chris Stewart Group are doing at the [RBS building] on St Andrew Square.”
When it opens in December, Baxter’s Place will join 850 other Marriott Courtyard Hotels in 35 countries around the world, including Bangkok, Seoul, Kuwait and Zurich.
The brand aims to attract business travellers and large parties booking through travel agencies, with each hotel boasting a 24/7 “mini-market” for snacks and treats and full conference facilities.