Royal Mile launchpad for serviced apartments

THE property firm behind a £45 million regeneration project off Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile is to roll out its ­luxury serviced apartment concept nationwide.

The apartments on Advocates Close are attractive to visitors spending longer periods in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
The apartments on Advocates Close are attractive to visitors spending longer periods in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed

Old Town Chambers, which forms part of the Advocate’s Close development, is due to officially launch this week at an event that will see it formally receive five-star recognition from VisitScotland.

As well as the apartments, the regeneration scheme features a 208-room hotel, operating under the ­Motel One name, bar, restaurants and ­office accommodation.

The official opening is to be used as a launchpad for expanding the serviced apartment business to other locations both north and south of the Border.

Julie Grieve, chief executive of Old Town Chambers, which is part of developer Chris Stewart Group, said the serviced apartment sector was growing strongly and offered greater convenience than traditional hotels for visitors undertaking longer stays.

Industry research highlights worldwide growth of 9 per cent, while 5 per cent of all accommodation bookings in the UK are now for serviced apartments. In the United States, that figure is about 12 per cent. “The plan for the business is to grow throughout the UK,” said Grieve. “We are targeting locations both in Scotland and south of the Border. Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester and London are obviously of interest.

“We are in negotiations on several buildings and some will come about sooner than others. From an operational perspective it makes sense to expand first in Scotland before we go down south.”

She added: “Because the business is owned by a property developer, we can look at buildings from a change-of-use perspective, or where they perhaps need some pretty big ­alterations done.”

The firm already runs sister serviced apartment dev­elopment Merchiston Residence in the capital. Both Edinburgh facilities fall under the Lateral City branding which will feature in future ­developments.

“The product wouldn’t always be five star but instead tailored to the local market,” said Grieve, who previously held top management roles at Abbey Business Centres and Braemore Property Management. “It is crucial to make sure that the development matches the surroundings.”

Old Town Chambers sits in the heart of one of the city’s medieval closes and features 18 terraces and balconies offering views of Edinburgh’s historic skyline. The development offers a choice of one, two and three-bed apartments, including a penthouse. Grieve added: “We expect to get high-end leisure visitors but are also building up the corporate market. If someone is away for more than one night then an apartment can be more fun than a hotel room.”

Towards the end of last year, Chris Stewart Group secured a £12.3m deal with Barclays to refinance the Old Town Chambers apartments as part of a funding agreement to extend the company’s reach.