The Royal Bank of Scotland has handed over a site behind its historic New Town headquarters, which is earmarked for the new Dunard Centre. Empty offices occupying the land, between St Andrew Square and the new St James Quarter, will be demolished to make way for the 1,000-capacity venue.
Construction work is expected to begin later this year. The venue is expected to take around three years to complete and cost at least £75 million to deliver.
The Dunard Centre, which will create a new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) and a new venue for the Edinburgh International Festival, will be designed to make it suitable for classical, traditional, jazz, pop, world and folk concerts.
First announced in 2016, an agreement from the bank to lease the land behind its Dundas House building ended a long search for a home for a medium-sized venue in the city.
The start of work on the project was delayed by several years following a bitter dispute between the Impact Scotland charitable trust, which was set up to create the venue, and the developers of the St James Quarter.
However, the project got back on track in Novemer 2021 when the city council approved scaled-backed designs for the new venue.
Alison Rose, chief executive of the NatWestGroup, of which the Royal Bank of Scotland is now part, visited the site with SCO chief executive Gavin Reid to mark the official hand-over.
She said: “Edinburgh is a global capital and world stage for international arts, culture and music. The Dunard Centre will provide further space to continue that tradition and offer further opportunity for more musicians and artists to develop and create.
"This project is a great example of what can be achieved with close collaboration across the city’s public and private sectors. The Royal Bank of Scotland is delighted to play a part in helping bring this project to life.”
Mr Reid said: “Together, we are building a bold and brilliant venue, which is an expression of faith in our city, our country and our future. The Dunard Centre will be a place where musicians and audiences come together to create and share extraordinary experiences.
"Through this final design stage, we are enjoying the challenge of ensuring excellence in every surface, corridor, seat and handrail. Every detail of the building will be finely tuned to make sure that concert going is an inspirational and exhilarating experience.”
Work on the Dunard Centre had initially been expected to start within months of the project receiving initial planning approval in the spring of 2019.
However, it had run into significant trouble by August of that year when it emerged the project’s cost had soared to more than £70m. The venue also suffered a major setback when legal action was launched by the St James Quarter developers.
The city council brokered a peace deal between the two sides in early 2020. When new designs were revealed in the summer of 2021, the concert hall’s height had been lowered and an extra performance space had been removed. However, the budget had increased from the original estimate to £75m.