The hotel developer bankrolling an overhaul of the historic Ross Bandstand and its surroundings has suggested turning the area above the railway running through the gardens into a new cultural attraction.
He has raised the prospect of up to 20 sculptures and other works of art being installed there as part of a drive to encourage more use of the area. Architects are being asked to come up with ideas for the landscaping of the area as part of an international design competition to create a new pavilion to replace the bandstand and create a visitor centre.
The Ross Development Trust, set up by Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford after the city council agreed to join forces with him to overhaul the gardens, has told architects that the wider environment in Princes Street Gardens is of equal importance to the new arena.
It believes the area between the existing bandstand and the castle esplanade could become a major new through route between the Royal Mile and the New Town, with walking routes from an art trail to the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound.
Springford said: “The south side of the gardens are very much under-utilised at the moment. They are quite steep. Like every other part of the gardens it is in need of attention.
“You wouldn’t want to prettify it up too much with herbaceous borders and that kind of thing. But that doesn’t prevent improvements to create a proper footpath, or encouraging people to use that part of the gardens. It’s a nice big space, but has nothing to encourage people to use it.
“You could have as many works of art as you wanted up there. All you’d need would be to create some areas of level ground.”
Project director David Ellis said: “This area is not that well used and its maintenance is not as good as it could be.
“There is certainly scope to improve it and increase its use. I don’t think too many people know there is an accessible path that can bring you down from the Royal Mile into the gardens.”