More than 120 years of retailing history in Edinburgh is set to be brought to a halt - after the new owners of the iconic House of Fraser store in the city’s west end revealed it is likely to be overhauled to become home to new offices.
New bars and restaurants could also be built on the ground floor of the landmark under a dramatic overhaul of the site, on the corner of Princes Street and Hope Street, which is expected to cost at least £10 million.
The building’s conversion into a new department store, hotel or serviced apartments has been all but ruled out.
The 70,000 sq ft site, which was previously home to celebrated department stores like Robert Maule & Son and Binns, was snapped up last year by Edinburgh-based property developer Parabola.
The same firm is spearheading plans for a major extension of the Edinburgh Park business park which would create more than 7000 jobs and 1800 new homes if it wins permission from the city council.
Its Princes Street deal was clinched just months before the 42-year-old Fraser’s store’s closure was confirmed by the ailing retail giant, which is expected to close the store by the beginning of 2019, with the loss of 127 jobs. The developers have revealed they are in “serious discussions” with a preferred company to take forward a revamp of the site.
They say the Fraser’s building is not suitable to meet the demands of modern-day retail when a vast new shopping centre is being created at the east end of the city centre. The planned overhaul is also expected to help address a shortage of high-quality office accommodation.
The site has had a department store on it since 1894, when Maule’s opened its doors, and has been run by House of Fraser since 1953.
When the site was put up for sale last year the agents said it was a “unique opportunity” to acquire one of the city’s six key department stores.
However the store’s lay-out has made it unattractive to other retailers, particularly when 850,000 sq ft of new space is being created at the new St James Centre, which is due for completion by 2010.Parabola’s previous projects have included Central Square in Newcastle and Kings Place in London.
Peterbol chairman Peter Millican said: “We’re weighing up what we think will bring the most value to Princes Street and as a long-term investment. It’s not going to be a department store in that area. Those days are finished.
“The city is desperate for new offices, it would stack up financially as offices, it would make sense as offices, so unless we get a better offer it will be offices. It’s a beautiful building in an incredibly prominent site. It’s an important building for Edinburgh. It book-ends Princes Street. It’s a key piece of the city. It was inevitable it would generate interest.
“We want to do something we think is worthwhile and will bring life to that end of Princes Street. If we get it right it will revitalise that whole corner of the city.”