Commercial property: New lease of life for historic Old Town school

Developers of a formerly threatened historic school building in the Canongate, Edinburgh, have unveiled computer-generated images which give a first look at what the fresh interior will be like.

The site falls within Artisan’s £200-million New Waverley development in the city’s Old Town, and is being converted into high-end apartments and a restaurant.

Edinburgh Castle Ltd acquired the building in 2016 and has been granted planning permission to convert the two-storey former school, a red sandstone C-listed 
structure, into luxury residential suites with Redpath as the main contractor.

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The conversion will see the original high-ceilinged school rooms transformed into 21 double-height suites with bedrooms, living areas, kitchens and bathrooms.

The school’s original glass atrium has been retained as the central feature in what will become the resident’s lounge area.

A roof terrace offering views across the Capital’s skyline will afford an area for casual dining and a branded restaurant is also planned.

Due to launch next summer, the apartments will be reserved for either short or long stays and the luxury offering is in response to the market, according to Jim Cummings, chief executive of Edinburgh Castle.

He says: “Business and high-end leisure travellers are demanding a home from home with flexible work spaces, mixed-use social spaces and quality food and beverage services.

“We have taken inspiration from the top-branded residences across the world to bring a boutique residence to Edinburgh.”

Cummings adds that both business travellers and holidaymakers expect a different offering to the choice between five-star hotels and serviced apartments, of which the city has many, but most are not to a five-star standard.

He explains: “There are lots of catered apartments around Edinburgh and with the advent of Airbnb and travellers are used to having their own space rather than staying in a hotel.

“Artisan were keen to put in apartments at Canongate 
and we have considerable experience in this top-end market in London.

“Most of the apartments in Edinburgh are about a three-star standard, but looking at comparable projects – in places like Dubai, with quality kitchens and bathrooms –we went for that option.

Edinburgh-based Staran Architects has retained the entire façade of the school along with many of the building’s historic features, including the hand-carved oak trusses in what will be the atrium lounge area.

This will preserve the central galleried hall which has remained largely unchanged since the school was built.

Previous Canongate development plans had threatenned to demolish the building, which was originally designed by Edinburgh Board of Education architect Robert Wilson as North Canongate Infant School. The structure is one of Edinburgh’s last remaining city school board designs of the late-Victorian period.

Cummings says: “The Royal Mile is the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town with so many important buildings. We felt it right to preserve this one and are excited about bringing life into it again.”