Commercial property: East Lothian opportunity

A landmark building in the centre of Haddington which has been vacant for five years has been given a new lease of life after a redevelopment.
The landmark building of George Court, HaddingtonThe landmark building of George Court, Haddington
The landmark building of George Court, Haddington

The project by Haddington -based property company Wilkie Developments highlights the opportunities outside the major industrial hubs, according to IME Property, the letting agent who is now marketing the development.

The work has transformed the lower floors of the former George Hotel, at the east end of the town’s High Street, into two mixed use commercial units.

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The building dates back to the 16th century and is B-listed but over the last 12 months it has been extensively redeveloped externally and internally.

The vaulted former ballroom in the first floor unit.The vaulted former ballroom in the first floor unit.
The vaulted former ballroom in the first floor unit.

No 1 George Court is 158sq m premises suitable for a restaurant or café on the ground floor which could accommodate 60 covers.

No 2 George Court measures 159sq m and is suitable for retail use. It is over the ground and first floors and includes the former ballroom, a barrel-vaulted ceiling, contemporary flooring and natural light from the large Georgian window.

IME Property’s managing director Iain Mercer says: “Wilkie Developments deserves credit for taking a leap of faith and reinvigorating what had become an eyesore in the centre of East Lothian’s political and economic heartland.

“It is a spectacular redevelopment and even at this early stage we have been encouraged by the interest shown from occupiers for both commercial units.”

The vaulted former ballroom in the first floor unit.The vaulted former ballroom in the first floor unit.
The vaulted former ballroom in the first floor unit.

The units are the first phase of the project by Jim Wilkie, director of Wilkie Developments, who plans to turn the remainder of the property into 15 flats over the next 12 months.

According to Mercer, it is a good example of commercial property opportunities outside the main city hubs.

“Our activities are wide ranging across a number of sectors and we’ve found East Lothian to be a ripe area of commercial activity attracting fresh investment and occupiers.

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“Not every business wants, or indeed needs, to be in the city centre and periphery locations do have an appeal for landlords and their tenants.”

He also points to Olive Bank Retail Park near Musselburgh, where IME is acting for Kilmac Properties. Last year a pre-let on a 15-year lease was secured with Home Bargains.

Kilmac invested £2.5 million in the new store and surrounding car park with 40 jobs being created as a result.

Another unit is under offer to a pet care brand, while a 2,894sq ft unit remains available.

Mercer says: “Olive Bank Retail Park is a prime example where we are less than two miles from Fort Kinnaird Retail Park but we are doing deals with good covenants at a fraction of the rents quoted there.”

IME has also recently handled space at Prestongrange House, at Royal Musselburgh Golf Club near Prestonpans.

The trio of lettings across four rooms in the category-A listed house amounted to 1,000sq ft and included a constituency office for the East Lothian MSP, Iain Gray.

Mercer sees potential for continued growth in the wider East Lothian area. “You only need to look at the number of new houses being built in towns such as Wallyford, North Berwick and Haddington to realise that Edinburgh’s growth cannot be constrained within the City bypass.”

“People and businesses are going further afield to take advantage of the lifestyle offered by 
East Lothian and this is having a positive effect on commercial activity.”