The former roads department site at King’s Stables Road has lain empty for several years, and has needed scaffolding since 2011 to keep crumbling masonry from falling on passers-by.
Its future now looks to be as a landmark hotel development in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, with flats, shops and student accommodation also being proposed.
Development firm Peveril, which was revealed yesterday as the buyer of the site with partner Campus Development Management, promised to consult with the local community on its plans, and said an arts café complex and artists’ workshops were also on the cards.
Grassmarket traders gave the plans a cautious welcome, but called on the firm – one of several to bid for the site – to speak to the local community.
Peveril head of development Ralph Jones said the developers were “highly sensitive” to the site’s key location within the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site.
He said: “These exciting proposals will breathe life into a corner of the Grassmarket that has lain neglected for a number of years, providing a hotel, student accommodation, flats and facilities to accommodate and promote the arts.
“It will also provide a great link between the Grassmarket and Exchange business districts, bringing a vibrant mix of uses to the area and form part of the council’s aspirations for a new cultural quarter.
“We are highly sensitive to the fact that the site is within the UNESCO World Heritage site boundary and as we work our way through the planning process look forward to meeting with the local community, updating them on our proposals and listening to their feedback.”
Businesses on the Grassmarket welcomed news of the sale. George Artus, project manager for the local business improvement district, said: “The developer concerned has not yet been in touch with us but we look forward to finding out more about their exciting plans, which will breathe new life into the Grassmarket and surrounding area.”
However, Kevin Buckle, owner of popular record shop Avalanche Records, which was located in the Grassmarket from 2010 to 2014, said that while other developers had held discussions with the community during the bidding process, Peveril had not, raising fears about their commitment to the arts proposals in the plans.
Mr Buckle said: “I’m concerned that this has gone to a firm that hasn’t been in touch with the community. It was stressed after the first round that they should.
“The worry is that they’ll say, we’ll have some interesting shops there, but then they never do. They build a hotel, they build some flats, they say they’ll build some arty stuff, but they leave that until the end and then they don’t do it.”