Edinburgh isn’t a city to stand still. A magnet for global investment, our Capital is thriving with new developments, which continually enrich the city’s offering to residents, businesses and visitors.
There is, of course, a balance to strike, particularly in a historic city. But in the most part they are a firm indicator of the confidence global investors have in Edinburgh as an outstanding place to live, work, study and visit.
Notably, our Capital is home to one of the UK’s largest and most significant regeneration projects, with the £1 billion Edinburgh St James development due to open in 2020 – bringing 850,000 square feet of shopping space, alongside a luxury 214-room W Hotel, an aparthotel, a multi-screen Everyman cinema and up to 150 new homes.
It’s not just multi-million-pound city centre ventures that positively impact Edinburgh, projects of all shapes and sizes span the Capital. Last month we saw plans to build a new Meadowbank sports centre approved by councillors, with ambitions to become one of the top centres for community sport in the country.
While new developments often make headlines on immediate benefits, the impacts are far reaching, driving the economy across multiple sectors.
Tourism-wise, a new development adds significant value – its arrival makes Edinburgh more competitive on the world stage. Whilst our UNESCO world heritage site must be protected and nurtured, new hotels, attractions, shops and restaurants all bolster the leisure tourism.
Some developments have potential to create unique new visitor attractions. The proposed film and TV studio in Midlothian would give the economy a huge boost should it go ahead. High-value feature films and TV series produced in the city not only create jobs but a long-lasting legacy of film tourism. You only need to look at the success of Outlander, with VisitScotland reporting that some areas have seen up to a 92 per cent increase in visitors to its locations.
It’s also just as important to work with what we have, revitalising historic buildings to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Recently-opened The Edinburgh Grand has taken over the former RBS building in St Andrew Square (which lay vacant for eight years) and enhanced its historic features.
Then there are small businesses or enterprises that maximise limited budgets through the rejuvenation of abandoned or derelict properties.
One example is the recent production of Clique, the Edinburgh-based BBC TV drama, which made excellent use of a disused school building.
The school itself had moved to a new property, but the shell of the building was given a fresh lease of life, and kept safe and secure from neglect thanks to forward-thinking television producers.
One of the first things celebrated at the arrival of a new development is job creation. There are also untold economic benefits that extend beyond the headlines. A new hotel brings project creation, with architects or building contractors invited to bid for work, creating fresh roles when they secure it. Beyond the staff who will work in it, demand is created in other pockets of business – from laundry companies and florists to accountancy and interior design firms. Restaurants and attractions surrounding that hotel all gain too.
In business tourism, new developments bring increased capacity, allowing my colleagues at Convention Edinburgh to bid for larger, more lucrative events.
The EICC can now host events for up to 2,000 people – this brings immediate delegate custom to hotels, restaurants and shops. Showcasing the city’s economic strengths to influential experts in their fields can be a catalyst for global investment.
Large new developments directly improve our city’s infrastructure. Granted, there are often short-term challenges for residents and business that come with building works. However, there are also long-term benefits in improved transport links and parking facilities. Edinburgh still has more green space than other densely populated cities in the UK and this must continue to be protected.
Edinburgh is a renowned, historic city, although we’re also vibrant and bustling, a centre for ground-breaking technology and creativity. When integrated into the community with the necessary degree of planning and foresight, developments of all sizes can inject vitality into not only our economy, but the soul of the city itself.
John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh.