A whole new town in the making by the sea
TWICE the size in half the time - that's the ambition for the waterfront developments along Edinburgh's shoreline. Twice as big as the World Heritage Site of the New Town, and to be completed in half of the thirty years it took to fully realise James Craig's master plan. Yet, with the blistering pace of regeneration being set in the capital's former industrial heartland, even that ambition seems modest.
Every day, new communities are taking shape, and every day new families call the waterfront their home. With 8,500 homes planned, these new water colourists are laying a canvas that will make a lasting impression.
Perhaps that's why Edinburgh developer Gregor Shore chose Platinum Point as the name for their flagship development within the Western Harbour regeneration. As a statement of modern architecture, the eight-storey apartment complex delivers the highest values. As a living experience, it could scarcely be more stylish or desirable. Consider the scene as the ultimate water feature. With an uninterrupted vista that stretches from the Forth bridges to what seems like Norway, waterfront living in Edinburgh is as good looking out as it is looking in.
As the buildings mature, and a park as big as the Meadows in the city centre begins to take shape, the hundreds who call Edinburgh's new prestige address home already recognise the value inherent in apartments rising to 675,000. Indeed, Platinum Point is fast catching up the company's other waterfront development, Anchor at Granton Marina, where almost half of the available 135 apartments are already sold and prices start at 134,950.
Before continuing a review of the changing shoreline, take a diversion upstream, along the leafy Water of Leith Walkway, a meandering ribbon that reaches from the lively heart of the city's port all the way to the Pentland Hills, by way of the charming Dean Village. It's here, within this tranquil oasis, just a short walk from the city centre, that you'll find the epitome of waterfront living in the traditional Edinburgh sense. Gregor Homes, sister company to Gregor Shore, is turning a historic warehouse and courtyard into Riverbank at Belford, a place for those who like their waterfront reflections to be more redolent of Tales of the Riverbank than Master and Commander. Commanding prices from 499,000, these apartments and townhouses represent a fitting addition to the conservation village within the city.
Back down on the shoreline, the Dean Village and the rest of Edinburgh will be within easy view of the crowning achievement on the West Breakwater - The Element from FM Developments. Due for completion in 2007, the 16-storey tower complex will comprise of 275 stylish properties: a mix of contemporary apartments, luxury penthouses and stunning duplex penthouses. Priced from 200,000 - 670,000, the clean geometric lines of the development are complemented by expanses of glass, generous balconies and landscaped gardens.
Edinburgh is not the only Scottish city reinventing itself with a waterside theme. FM Developments are among those also active in the rebirth of Dundee's docklands and Glasgow's Clydeside, but it's in the capital that scale and scope are unsurpassed. Western Harbour - where Bryant join FM and Gregor Shore as principal developers - would in itself be a huge project by any standards. Yet it amounts to barely a third of the shoreline regeneration.
The area is currently undergoing an exciting transformation as part of the visionary master plan for the redevelopment of the Granton area overall into an eclectic mix of residential, leisure and business facilities. Encompassing a hinterland that includes the entire site of the former Granton Gas Works, the area under the banner of ForthQuarter is already home to the new Scottish Gas headquarters and the outstanding new 32-million Telford College campus.
The Elphinstone DTZ Corinthian Quay, located right at the harbour's edge, is proving among the most coveted of all the waterfront developments. Priced from 195,000 to 399,000, the mixture of two and three-bedroom apartments and a unique duplex apartment provide luxurious living standards. Many styles offer studies or office rooms, extensive terraces, private balconies, dedicated dining areas and many other design features.
Elphinstone's innovation is matched by the plaudits and awards for Upper Strand, the nearby boulevard of one and two-bedroom apartments from a joint venture between urban regeneration specialists, The Burrell Company, and The Places for People Group. The eagerly snapped up first phase, with prices ranging from 125,000 to 187,000, offers further proof that interest in the waterfront continues to grow.
June Sutherland, sales and marketing manager of Bellway Homes East, who recently began work on 155 homes here, said the sales office for their Malmo courtyard development was already busy. "We've had a lot of interest, particularly from first-time buyers looking to get on the property ladder in Edinburgh. Malmo will offer buyers quality apartments, at a good price and in a key location for travelling to the city centre and taking advantage of Edinburgh's increasingly popular waterfront."
For a project that boasts traditional Scottish values throughout construction and finishing, many enquiries concern the intriguingly Scandinavian designation for the development, as well as the attractive pricing. Two-bedroom apartments, just released, start from 126,995 and buyers will be able to move in by this September.
Equally good value comes nearby at Fusion, a Barratt East Scotland project of 177 homes, mixing apartments with town houses and open spaces, and an unexpectedly affordable lead price of 129,995. For that, buyers benefit from the uncommon advantages of a concierge service, fitness suite and secure underground parking.
Indeed, throughout the waterfront regeneration, there are valuable surprises in store. The new shoreline of Edinburgh represents much more than a simple residential development. For those taking the decision to embrace the bracing sea breezes, this represents a whole new lifestyle, as much a departure from city living as the Georgian New Town represented more than two centuries ago.
From the western boundary of ForthQuarter, future plans for a peninsular development, stretching several hundred meters out to sea, have already provided a talking point. Stroll further west still, on the broad walk that separates the green expanse of Silverknowes from the tidal beach, and you'll be walking in the footsteps of history.
While the Romans may not have won any awards from the local populace, their legacy lives on in the settlement they called Caer Amon. Where the River Almond meets the Forth, in the desirable enclave that has evolved into Cramond, there's a friendlier newcomer adding a new dimension to the ancient community. Sharing with Bryant Homes the site of the former Moray House teachers' college, Edinburgh's own prestige developer AMA has borrowed the Roman name for its impressive swathe of high-end properties.
AMA's Benham Afshar calls it "the best housing of its class anywhere in Britain today", a boast backed by a much more friendly welcome than was afforded to the garrison of Emperor Antoninus Pius. The transformed college site was the recipient of a recent award from The Edinburgh Architectural Society. Certainly, with the ultimate waterfront site in Edinburgh's ultimate waterfront location, AMA have made no compromise in completing a collection of homes that live up to the company's medal-winning reputation for providing first class homes for the most demanding of clients - at a price range from 750,000 to 1.4m.
Architects Richard Murphy have excelled with a flexible design aimed at taking advantage of the changeable Scottish climate, not just coping with it. Wrap-around exterior walls both shield against the wind and trap the sun, while the living spaces can be adapted with ease to suit indoor dining or al fresco leisure. State-of-the-art acoustic proofing ensures that even the closest approach to the conveniently-nearby Edinburgh Airport glides by as silently as the swans who have stood sentinel on the River Almond since the Romans first recognised the enduring charms of Edinburgh's waterfront.
• Projects throughout the shoreline regeneration in Edinburgh can be accessed via three websites, covering developments for each of the major landowners: www.edinburgh-forthside.co.uk covers the Leith Docks area; www.waterfront-ed.com is the best contact for the Newhaven area; www.forthquarter.co.uk is a good start for developers around Granton and the former gas works site. For Dean Village on the Water of Leith, visit www.riverbankbelford.co.uk
The Moray House teacher training college site is shared by AMA, Caer Amon, and Bryant Cramond Gate. www.amahomes.co.uk; www.bryant.co.uk
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