Work on Edinburgh’s first new concert hall for a century to begin within weeks

Work on Edinburgh's first purpose-built new concert hall for more than a century is finally set to get underway in the heart of the city’s historic New Town.

The 1,000-capacity venue, to be created behind the historic St Andrew Square headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland, is expected to take around three years to complete and cost at least £75 million to deliver.

The start of work on the project was delayed by several years following a bitter dispute between the Impact Scotland trust, which was set up to create the venue, and the developers of the nearby St James Quarter.

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First announced in 2016, the project will create a permanent home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as a new venue for Edinburgh International Festival performances.

The Dunard Centre would be Edinburgh's first new purpose-built concert hall for a century.
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However the Dunard Centre, named after American arts philanthropist Carol Grigor’s charitable trust, will be suitable for classical, traditional, jazz, pop, world and folk concerts.

Initial work is expected to start before Christmas and will involve the stripping out and demolition of an empty office block behind Dundas House that is earmarked for the long-awaited concert hall.

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Construction work on the venue is hoped to begin after the spring when its final cost is agreed with contactors.

The Dunard Centre had a price tag of £45 million when first details of the project were announced six years ago this month by a new arts charity Impact Scotland.

The Dunard Centre would be Edinburgh's first new purpose-built concert hall for a century.

Work had initially been expected to start within months of the project receiving initial planning approval in the spring of 2019.

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However, it had run into significant trouble by August of that year when it emerged that its cost had soared to more than £70m. The project 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 August last year, 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.

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A spokeswoman for Impact Scotland said: “Construction is scheduled to begin later in 2023, but we are expecting site clearance work to get underway on site before the end of 2022, broadly within the footprint of the planned programme.

The Dunard Centre would be Edinburgh's first new purpose-built concert hall for a century.

"We’re just locking in the design and build contract, which will confirm a substantial part of the budget for the project. Conversations are going well and on track to be finalised in the spring.

"We’re confident about the progress of funding and fundraising too, with secure pledges of money from the Dunard Fund and City Deal, and private fundraising going well.”

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The Royal Bank of Scotland had agreed to lease the land behind Dundas House to Impact Scotland in 2016, ending a decades-long search by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for a new home in the city.

The project has since attracted pledges of £10m each from the UK and Scottish governments, and a further £5m from Edinburgh City Council, with the Dunard Trust confirming £35m worth of support.

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The new Dunard Centre concert hall will be created between St Andrew Square and the St James Quarter.

A fundraising campaign is intended to raise the remaining finance for the project, which received final approval from the city council exactly 12 months ago. The public funding for the Dunard Centre was officially signed off in March of this year.

Gavin Reid, co-chair of Impact Scotland, said: “We’re in the midst of an exciting period of progress on our journey to build a new world-class concert hall fit for 21st-century audiences and performers.

“We’re on track for construction to start in 2023, with site clearance work due to begin in the coming weeks.

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“The Dunard Centre is also in the fortunate position of having secured substantial funding from Dunard Fund and Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

"Private fundraising is also going well and we are pleased that the project is progressing well.”

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The Dunard Centre has been designed by the leading British architect Sir David Chipperfield and Tokyo-based consultants Nagata Acoustics to compete with the sound quality and audience experience in the world’s best concert halls.

Space for educational workshops, community groups and conferences will be created in the Dunard Centre concert hall.

Key features will include the capacity for live streaming, digital capture and broadcasting, several flexible multi-purpose rooms suitable for education workshops, conferences and corporate hospitality, and a foyer suitable for informal performances.

The Dunard Centre is expected to be open to the public every day, similar to the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, with the New Town venue due to feature a cafe-bar, with both indoor and outdoor seating.

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The concert hall will also create new links between St Andrew Square, the St James Quarter and the Register Lanes, near the east end of Princes Street.

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