Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Demolition complete at St James Centre site

Site of works at the former St James Centre

The demolition phase of Edinburgh's controversial St James redevelopment is complete.

Construction of the £850m project is getting under way, with completion due by 2020.

After years of delay, work finally began in late 2016 to demolish the concrete complex often branded Edinburgh's ugliest building.

Now the last of the wrenching, digging out, pulling down the bricks and mortar has been done.

Image copyright Edinburgh St James
Image caption A luxury hotel at the heart of the development has been dubbed the Walnut Whip

The new Edinburgh St James will comprise 850,000 sq ft of retail space, anchored by the John Lewis store.

It will also feature a multi-screen cinema, a 214-room hotel and 150 private apartments.

Developers said the revamp represented one of the UK's largest private sector regeneration projects.

Tim Kelly is the project director with Laing O'Rourke, which are looking after the construction of the new centre.

He said: "Very shortly we shall be getting to the stage where we are starting to build back up the way, reconstructing the Edinburgh St James, so pouring concrete down the base and the base foundations and bringing the structure back up the way."

Image copyright Google
Image caption The original St James centre, opened in 1970, was often described as an eyesore

The original St James Centre opened in 1970 at the end of Edinburgh's famous Princes Street.

The centre, which contained, stores, restaurants and offices, was often described as an eyesore but some heritage watchdogs have been concerned about its replacement.

The centrepiece of the new development, a luxury hotel dubbed by some as the Walnut Whip, has caused worries about how it sits in a city with two World Heritage sites.

Martin Perry, director of development, said: "We effectively designed what we call a Marmite building, it is either loved or hated but definitely gets a reaction.

"Whereas the rest of the development is designed to blend and fit into the environment. That building is designed to deliberately create a bit of a stir."

Adam Wilkinson director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: "We are feeling quite positive at the moment about how the city is looking forward in terms of its heritage.

"We have a council that is committed to world heritage status, we have a new world heritage site management plan agreed with the council, Historic Scotland and ourselves and it looks at a number of issues including specifically including the quality of development in the city and how we can get beyond the idea of things being just good enough.

"The council's planning committee has stated very clearly that just good enough is not good enough for Edinburgh and that's a position we strongly support."

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