Cowgate gap site work ‘to be finished this year’

Work has begun at the site. Picture: Jon Savage/ TSPL
Work has begun at the site. Picture: Jon Savage/ TSPL
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CONSTRUCTION work on a major gap site in Edinburgh will be completed this year, developers have insisted, as they passed a key milestone on the £35m project.

The Cowgate site - left devastated by the Old Town fire in 2002 - is undergoing the redevelopment with a nine-storey hotel and retail complex being erected in the area.

Work has begun at the site. Picture: Jon Savage/ TSPL

Work has begun at the site. Picture: Jon Savage/ TSPL

Attempts to rebuild the district after the loss of 11 buildings have repeatedly fallen though, and work finally got underway earlier this year.

Jansons Property held a topping out ceremony as the last beam was placed at the top of the nine-storey building, and allowed business leaders onto the site for the first time.

The project is currently around a month behind schedule, but managing director Andy Jansons said that work was progressing quickly after years of stalling and overcoming “red tape”.

Six units are planned including an Ibis Hotel and Sainsbury’s at street level on South Bridge and two retail units on the Cowgate.

Work has begun at the site. Picture: Jon Savage/ TSPL

Work has begun at the site. Picture: Jon Savage/ TSPL

The new La Belle Angèle is expected to be the first part of the complex to be completed, around November, and will open at a time when when other Edinburgh venues are closing their doors.

The 600-capacity club famously hosted concerts by Oasis and Jeff Buckley but was completely destroyed in the fire.

Owner Hafid Mahboub said he had turned down other opportunities to re-establish his venue elsewhere and waited 11 years to return to the Cowgate.

“It’s been a long haul and there have been a lot of trials and tribulations over the past 11 years, so we’re quite glad everything has come together for us to start again”, he told The Scotsman as he toured the new complex.

“It will be a nightclub but we will concentrate on live music thorughout the week. The location is ideal and we know the area.”

Recalling rushing to his business during the night-time blaze of December 2002, he added: “It was a harrowing experience. My partner and I watched the flames that night and we never thought we would reopen.”

At present, the building’s shell is being completed and in the coming months internal fittings will be installed. Top floor rooms in the hotel will offer views across the city.

Mr Jansons said that work should remain on schedule for completion later this year.

“We are running around four weeks behind schedule but we’re at the stage of the programme where we can catch up quite rapidly”, he said.

“Now we’ve got the roof on the weather doesn’t affect us and we can focus on internal fitout and throw people at it.”

He added that the arrival of the development should improve the area, which has seen the arrival of several discount retail stores in recent years.

“A 259-bed hotel is going to bring a lot of people to South Bridge and we’ll see a lot more people walking down Blair Street to get to the hotel.

“The idea is we’ve created a new little district. Hopefully this might gentrify this side of South bridge and bring some better quality retailers.”