Heart of historic city centre transformation

The beginning of August sees the annual transformation of Edinburgh into a wonderful heaving mass of festival-led celebration. And nowhere is this pavement-bumping cultural feeding frenzy more keenly felt than in the deepest, beating heart of its historic city centre.
The now vibrant area used to be run down and dullThe now vibrant area used to be run down and dull
The now vibrant area used to be run down and dull

New Waverley is now one of Edinburgh’s most exciting new districts, stretching from the Royal Mile down to Waverley Station. At its heart is a new football-pitch sized public square, just off the Royal Mile behind the new Adagio Aparthotel. Along from the station lie The Arches, a row of 19 renovated Victorian arches which now host an eclectic mix of shops, cafes, restaurants and curiosities. Together, these brand new locations are home to some of the best ‘before, during and after’ festival celebrations held anywhere in the city.

During August, the new square will host the Edinburgh Cocktail Festival bringing together a myriad of pop-up cocktail bars, food stalls and DJs. This follows hot on the heels of the Heverlee Festival at The Arches which celebrated all things Belgian – including food, beer and electronic music.

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The Arches have also witnessed Freestival, the Fringe’s largest free festival as well as many one-off events, street markets and art projects. Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame unveiled a 10-metre illuminated artwork in celebration of St Valentine’s Day, and just around the corner, on the Royal Mile, we unveiled the UK’s largest poem to celebrate National Poetry Day.

What makes New Waverley so special, especially at this time of year, is that just a couple of years ago The Arches were boarded up and used for industrial storage by the council. The roads and spaces now buzzing bore the remnants of the city’s old gas works and bus garage, which had remained for almost two decades as an ugly, unused development site.

This spectacular transformation is best witnessed at festival time. The area is brimming with visitors, the hotels are full and the cafes and restaurants are spilling out on to the pavements. In short, life in all its glory has returned to part of the city which had been closed off for years. And as recently as last month, the UK government announced that almost 3,000 civil servants will form a new office hub at New Waverley, meaning that this influx of new life and vibrancy is here to stay.

This is all part of a long-term plan by Artisan Real Estate Investors, the investment partnership driving New Waverley, to create a genuine sense of place for its city centre regeneration projects, building exciting, sustainable and vibrant locations in which to live, work and visit.

It shows what can be achieved when urban regeneration projects get it right. There was some criticism of the development at the start, with many doom-laden prophecies that the energy, ideas and investment brought by the developers would lead to the ‘destruction’ of a very fragile part of our city.

But anyone now witnessing the sheer exuberance and excitement of The Arches and the whole of New Waverley in general, would realise that this sensitive development mix is exactly what our city centres need if they want to continue to be attractive destinations to live, work and visit.

Charlotte Swanson is the asset manager for New Waverley

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