For months it was nothing more than a hole in the ground after Edinburgh’s eye-sore St James Centre was razed. But now, after more than two years of work on the site, the shape of the future development of shops, hotels and homes is starting to emerge.
The £850 million project – which includes meticulously controlled work under John Lewis while business continues uninterrupted overhead – will bring thousands of jobs and major new shopping and leisure opportunities to the city.
The developers say they are on schedule for the retail part of the site to be completed in October 2020, with the hotels and homes due the following year. They have released images of beams being lifted into place, the curved “galleria” shopping street becoming recognisable amid the steelwork and scaffolding while the concrete core for the W Hotel towers over the site.
When it is completed the St James Quarter will have 850,000sq ft of retail space, including 85 new shops and 32 food and beverage units, an Everyman Cinema, up to 150 new homes, the five-star W Hotel, a Roomzzz Aparthotel and three new public squares.
More than 15,000 tonnes of steel was delivered to the site in the summer for the framework of the huge development and 200,000 tonnes of reinforced concrete is being used in the construction.
The firm behind the St James Quarter, TH Real Estate, says the 1.7 million sq ft development is one of the largest and most significant regeneration projects under way in the UK.
It says the project has invested almost £112 million in locally sourced construction materials and workforce.
Up to 5,000 construction jobs are being created during building of the new quarter. In the longer term, the development is expected to create more than 3,000 permanent full-time jobs in a variety of sectors.
A total of 31,737 tonnes of material from demolition – the equivalent of 21,158 small cars or 264 blue whales – has been recycled and reused onsite for construction purposes.
More than 2,800 people have been or still are working on the site, 80 per cent of them living within 100 miles of the project; and nearly 800 days’ work experience has been provided for local schools, universities and graduates.
Martin Perry, director of development for Edinburgh St James, said: “As the steel structure continues to reach new heights, it’s encouraging to see the positive impact the development is having on the local economy and community.”