Advocate’s Close named Britain’s best development

A RADICAL revamp of a neglected chunk of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town has been named Britain’s best development.
The Advocate's Close development has been named Britain's best. Pic: compThe Advocate's Close development has been named Britain's best. Pic: comp
The Advocate's Close development has been named Britain's best. Pic: comp

Nine listed buildings covering 11 storeys between the Royal Mile and Market Street were transformed as part of the Advocate’s Close development.

The scheme, which involved the restoration of four closes dating back to the mid-16th century, has been named project of the year by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

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The £45 million development, which has already won a string of industry plaudits, was praised by by the RICS judging panel for turning a “previously run-down and unloved part of the city” into a vibrant new quarter.

It won the main prize at the annual awards ceremony honouring the UK’s “most inspirational” developments in land, property, construction and the environment.

It had already been judged the best project north of the border at the RICS’s annual awards in Scotland, ahead of a new Glasgow School of Art building and visitor centre at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn.

David Tuffin, chair of the RICS judging panel, said: “Careful conservation, coupled with sensitive interventions and a clever use of new material and finishes, has produced an imaginative mixed-use scheme. An exceptional regeneration, Advocate’s Close is a very worthy winner.”

The Advocate’s Close project was led by the Chris Stewart Group, an Edinburgh-based real estate firm which has been redeveloping different parts of the city centre over the last 15 years,

For the Advocate’s Close scheme, it joined forces with Edinburgh architectural practice Morgan McDonnell to transform run-down former Edinburgh City Council buildings and surrounding backstreets, some of which had been closed off the public.

The development - which encompassed buildings up to 11 storeys tall - included a new 208-room hotel, 50 serviced apartments, offices, The Devil’s Advocate bar and bistro, and a brand new pedestrian thoroughfare.

The project, which took four years to complete, was last year honoured in the search to find Scotland’s building of the year.

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It beat off competition from Glasgow’s new Hydro arena, the Commonwealth Games athletes village and a restoration of Aberfeldy’s art deco cinema to win the £25,000 Doolan Prize.

The work on the award-winning scheme was centred around Advocate’s Close itself, which is named after Sir James Stewart, a Lord Advocate of Scotland, who served between 1692 and 1713, and lived in the close.

The Chris Stewart Group recently unveiled plans to transform a large swathe of buildings on and around St Andrew Square, including the historic former headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Guy Morgan, director at Morgan McDonnell, said: “We are honoured to have been recognised for our work on the Advocate’s Close development.

“To have won an award from such a prestigious organisation like RICS is a really great achievement for all involved in the project.

“We want to continue our award-winning work in the built environment sector, and hope that our award win will inspire other professionals in the industry to reach the very highest standards in their own work and benefit the local communities they serve.”