Tycoon to create budget hotel above city clothes store

THE company behind the Topshop brand is to develop a major budget hotel in one of Princes Street's most iconic buildings.

Retail tycoon Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group wants to turn the four floors above the Edinburgh Topshop store into the hotel.

It would also be linked to another building on Meuse Lane, directly behind Princes Street, where the main entrance would be. Two extra floors would be created on top of the existing Meuse Lane property.

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The move would bring the whole of the A-listed former RW Forsyth department store back into use after the upper floors have been left lying empty for years.

News of the plans - formally lodged with city planners - comes just two years after Arcadia unsuccessfully tried to sell the building that it bought for 26 million in 2006.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "We have been in discussions with Arcadia Group about doing more with that building because, at the moment, it is under-utilised. We are keen to see anything happen that uses the upper floors.

"It is fantastic that someone is at last beginning to look at developing out one of the lanes and bridging Princes Street, George Street and St Andrew Square. If Arcadia Group bring something like this, it would be a wonderful site, with fantastic views overlooking Princes Street Gardens."

Arcadia had previously planned to refurbish the upper floors and use them as additional retail space, but it ditched the plans.

The building, at 30-31 Princes Street, closed in May 2008 for a revamp of the existing retail space, with its brands temporarily relocating to the former Marks & Spencer ladieswear outlet on Princes Street.

As part of its plans, Arcadia also intends to build two new bridges linking the Princes Street and Meuse Lane buildings on the third and fourth floors, as well as replacing the existing bridge on the fifth floor.

But the plans to refurbish the building are likely to be closely scrutinised by heritage groups.

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It is not yet known whether Arcadia intends to develop the site itself or just get planning consent in place before selling it on to a developer.

It will become the third new budget hotel on Princes Street, with easyHotel due to open later this month and plans for a new Premier Inn also approved.

Peter Darroch, an executive vice-president at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in Scotland, said: "Budget hotels are technically called 'limited service' hotels and can range from one star to as high as four stars depending on the brand."The reason the market favours limited service hotels at the moment is that they are considerably easier to fund as a lot of operators take lease agreements as opposed to management contracts, which are more difficult to fund."

He added: "It is a brilliant location on the main retail thoroughfare."

No-one at Arcadia was available to comment.