Chris Stewart Group makes £5.1m George Square bid

The Edinburgh property developer behind an award-winning regeneration project in the city’s Old Town is to make its first move into Glasgow.

The Chris Stewart Group's award-winning Old Town Chamber. Picture: Contributed

Chris Stewart Group, which is also working on a £20 million revamp of a derelict site at the top of Leith Walk, has paid £5.1m for a collection of buildings off Glasgow’s George Square, which will be redeveloped to include serviced apartments, retail units and student flats.

The former council offices, dubbed the George Street Complex, overlook Glasgow City Chambers and comprise seven properties, including two listed buildings.

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Liz Cameron, executive member for jobs and the economy at Glasgow City Council, said: “The development of the George Street Complex will see new life for these key buildings in the heart of Glasgow. The proposed student accommodation, serviced apartments and retail and leisure uses meet identified needs in the city and the new lane will create a new nightlife destination.”

The listed buildings on the site will be redeveloped and refurbished to meet modern demands, while a key feature will be the creation of a new lane through the city centre project, providing a pedestrian thoroughfare along with cafes, restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

A spokesperson for Chris Stewart said: “This is an exciting development opportunity with the prospect of delivering a unique city centre environment. By harnessing the potential of the existing listed buildings and creating a new lane with its own identity, our plans are to open up the area for everyone to enjoy.”

In December, Chris Stewart picked up an International Property Award (IPA) for creating the world’s best commercial development following its revamp of the area around Advocate’s Close, off the Royal Mile.

The restoration saw the steep and narrow lanes turned into a busy extension of the High Street, with a new bar and restaurant as well as serviced apartments. The project had already been crowned the best building in Scotland by winning the RIAS Andrew Doolan Award.

The IPA accolade came after the developer’s founder and chief executive, Chris Stewart, secured a “significant” cash injection for his eponymous company in March 2014 from Proprium Capital Partners, a US-based investment firm.

At the time of the investment, Proprium’s head of Europe, Philipp Westermann, said: “Chris Stewart Group is a fast-growing and entrepreneurial company with an outstanding track record. We are excited at the prospect of contributing to its future success through this capital injection, which will be used to invest in several attractive projects in Scotland and other parts of the UK.”

The first deal concluded under the new partnership was the purchase of Baxter’s Place, a derelict Georgian terrace building in Edinburgh neighbouring the Playhouse theatre. It is designated for a 240-bed upmarket hotel development under the Marriott Courtyard brand.

Chris Stewart is also working on plans for a £60m regeneration project on the south-east corner of St Andrew Square, which will include the renovation of the former Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters to create offices, serviced apartments, restaurants and retail units.

l Confidence among construction firms hit its highest level for more than nine years last month as the sector enjoyed a welcome post-election bounce.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey from Markit and Cips, where 50 separates growth from contraction, showed a reading of 55.9 in May, up from the 22-month low of 54.2 in April.

It also showed optimism among firms was at its highest level since February 2006 after the Conservatives’ election victory ended concerns over a hung parliament. More than half of those firms surveyed – 58 per cent – said they were expecting a rise in output levels, while only 4 per cent forecast a reduction.