Plans for £20m Cube office block unveiled as builders start work

A NEW image of an office block at one of the city's most prominent gap sites at the foot of Calton Hill has been unveiled as construction work gets under way.

The controversial six-storey building, which has been named The Cube, is designed to revitalise the area of Leith Street opposite the St James Centre.

But objectors believe the glass-fronted building will be too big, out of character with the World Heritage Site and block views to Calton Hill.

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The project is expected to last 18 months, with completion scheduled for October 2009.

Developers today also revealed they are aiming for an "excellent" environmental rating, which will be achieved through the introduction of moveable screens to manage the warmth and light entering the building.

The office block has been designed by award-winning Edinburgh architect Allan Murray, who created The Tun building on Holyrood Road, for the Kilmartin Property Group.

The firm agreed to buy the council-owned land for an estimated 3 million in 2006 after a fierce competition to win preferred bidder status.

The development, which will have around 66,000sq ft of office space, is thought to cost more than 20m.

Cameron Stott, director of Jones Lang LaSalle, letting agent for the building, said: "The Cube is an architecturally stunning building in the heart of the Capital.

"The scheme is a reflection of the amount of investment and development taking place in the east end of Edinburgh with the likes of the proposed St James Quarter and Caltongate. The Cube will also benefit from its close proximity to Waverley, the trams and Edinburgh Bus Station."

Mark Hancock, chief executive of Kilmartin, added: "Projects such as The Cube allow us to transfer knowledge across Kilmartin, from the innovative techniques gained on our current large-scale development and regeneration schemes, and re-applying it to our current projects throughout the UK.

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"In doing so, we aim to ensure that we promote the highest standards of sustainable development and deliver the best environmental performance from our projects."

The site has been vacant since former tenement buildings there were destroyed in 1974, at the time of the St James Centre redevelopment scheme.

Last year, there were five objections to the plans, among them neighbouring residents and heritage watchdog, the Cockburn Association.

But Mr Murray said his design would help "bring the area to life again", and city councillors agreed with him.

The architect, who was responsible for the neighbouring Omni Centre and is behind most of the Caltongate scheme, has designed The Cube to maximise daylight and ventilation, but minimise heat loss, air leakage and unwanted heat gain, particularly in summer. The building will also incorporate an energy-efficient lighting management system.

Meanwhile, across the road, plans are currently being drawn up for a massive 850m revamp of the eyesore that is the St James Centre.

The scheme, which could be completed by 2015, includes new streets, two hotels, scores of shops and luxury flats, and public squares.

The existing shopping centre, adjoining office block and the Thistle Hotel – widely regarded as being among Edinburgh's ugliest buildings – would be demolished to make way for the development, which is designed to ensure the Capital can rival Glasgow and other cities as a major shopping destination.

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