Princes Street Revitalisation, Refurbishment, Scotland

Edinburgh City Centre Management Group

ECCMG : Princes Street

Edinburgh City Centre Management

Princes Street is one of the few streets in the world that people recognise by name alone. Like the Champs Elysee, 5th Avenue, or Rodeo Drive, everyone knows which City it is in. The image of Princes Street is beautiful architecture and quality shops.

Unfortunately, the reality is different. The street enjoys a magnificent setting, looking across Princes Street Gardens to the imposing Edinburgh Castle and flanked by grand hotels, Calton Hill and the Scott Monument. But many of the grand and original buildings have been lost and the retail scene is dominated by the national retailers that are found in every High Street across the UK.

ECC is seeking to generate a debate about how its retail and architectural quality can be restored to a position of which Edinburgh and Scotland can be justifiably proud.

The retail scene in the City is very dynamic. Floor space equivalent in size to the City Centre has been created on the edge of the City in recent years. George Street is developing into a high quality retail experience and some of the up-market names are moving there from Princes Street. A new development hosting Harvey Nichols is under construction and due to open next year. Princes Street has become the market’s choice for the national chains. This in itself is not a problem – every City has its prime pitch dominated by these same retailers, but there is a problem with the quality and the quantity of the floor space that is available.

There is simply not enough space for the number of retailers who want to trade in the City Centre. Those who are here are too often forced to trade from stores that are too small for their needs or are poorly configured for modern retailing.

In other Cities, the solution to these problems would be large scale demolitions and construction of shopping malls. This is difficult in a World Heritage Site, although there are some development schemes are being considered which will provide more retail space of a standard that is suitable for modern retailing. If they go ahead, they will address part of the problem. The dysfunctional space in Princes Street will remain and needs to be addressed whatever new malls are constructed.

Princes Street has become an architectural ‘hotch-potch’ over the last century. Little of the original street remains. We now have some of the ugliest buildings in the City in our most prominent thoroughfare. In other City Centres, these mistakes are less noticeable because the eye is not usually drawn above fascia level in more enclosed streets. In Princes Street, the magnificent setting and panoramic views draw the eye up and the poor quality is more visible.

The buildings in Princes Street are being renewed on a continuing and piecemeal basis. ECC proposes that we examine a more co-ordinated approach which will generate greater architectural quality, better shopping provision and facilitate change more quickly.

Edinburgh is a European capital, a cultural, business and academic leader and one of the most popular visitor destinations in the country. The City needs to have a high quality retail offer for its visitors and its residents. The importance of retailing as a complementary attraction to its culture and architecture is too often overlooked. We have the opportunity to address the improvement of retailing together with the removal of some of the architectural mistakes of the twentieth Century.
ECC would like to see the restoration of Princes Street to its former glory as a beautiful architectural statement housing top quality retailing.
Gordon Reid, Chief Executive
Edinburgh City Centre Management

ECCMG: Princes Street PR
29.06.01




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