Work set to begin on contentious ‘Caltongate’ gap site development
WORK is set to get underway within months on one of Edinburgh’s most notorious gap sites after developers said they would retain almost half of a £300 million scheme off the Royal Mile.
However, some of the more contentious elements of the “Caltongate” project are set to be dropped or scaled back under plans to redraw much of the original blueprint, which triggered an international inquiry into Edinburgh’s world heritage status.
A listed former school building that had been earmarked for demolition could now be saved after new architects were called in to redesign the southern half of the blueprint for the site, including a new public square and arts quarter.
New plans are expected to be submitted to the city council in the autumn, but developers Artisan insist some elements of the scheme do not need planning permission for work to begin.
Work is expected to start shortly on several sections of the site adjacent to Calton Road, where a temporary hotel is currently operating for the Fringe. This includes a mixture of regular and affordable housing blocks, office space, retail units and a car park.
However, the prospect of other changes has raised hopes that the Canongate Venture building, which was due to be replaced as part of a hotel and conference centre complex, could become home to a proposed new writers’ centre.
Lukas Nakos, frontman for the South African consortium which bought the gap site out of administration last year, said it had an “open mind” on parts of the site now and pledged the final blueprint would only be decided at the end of an ongoing consultation process.
Plans to turn the former Victorian school into a new arts centre emerged months after the previous developers in charge of Caltongate went into administration.
The old school building, which dates back to 1901, would become a hub for publishers, literary organisations, writers and illustrators, under a bid by the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust.
Mr Nakos said: “We are looking at redesigning the whole southern section of the development site, roughly from the arches on Market Street and the proposed public square to the Royal Mile.
“We have not made any final decisions over this area. We are well aware of the plans for the literary centre in the Canongate Venture building.
“We will not be submitting a new masterplan for the site as we are planning to start work on some elements within the next few months but will be submitting some changes to other areas by the end of the year.”
Architect Neil Simpson, director of the development trust, said: “We were pleased to hear from Lukas Nakos that the sites on the southern edge of the masterplan, including the Canongate Venture, were going to be redesigned.
“We will be shortly requesting with Artisan and the council, who remain owners of the listed former school, to discuss the proposal for cultural and community uses as part of the wider redevelopment of the area.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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