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Princes Street Edinburgh : City Centre Strategy & Action Plan

Malcolm Fraser Architects : Princes Street Framework, Edinburgh

Princes Street Framework

Cockburn Association Comment:

Malcolm Fraser Architects : Princes Street Framework

An exciting new development framework for the future of Princes Street in Edinburgh has been unveiled. The 10-15 year phased programme would see the redevelopment of key sites in the capital’s prime shopping street.

The Edinburgh City Centre Management Company generated a considerable debate in 2001 when it suggested that large parts of Princes Street should be considered for redevelopment. The quality of many buildings, architecturally and functionally were not considered to be of sufficient quality for the centre of a World Heritage site or a regional shopping centre. The company was surprised by the response, which was overwhelmingly supportive.

A City Centre Strategy and Action Plan has been produced, under the company’s leadership. One of the proposed actions is to “promote the selective redevelopment of Princes Street”. In accordance with this Plan, Malcolm Fraser Architects and the Cockburn Association have produced outline proposals to further the debate. It includes a development framework for the future of Princes Street.

The plan encourages a mix of uses on the street – taking into account the needs of large retailers, as well as quality independent stores who would bring added vibrancy to the area. It will also increase the opportunities for cafes and restaurants. The exciting prospect of re-introducing residential property is also addressed. A key element to the scheme is its commitment to balance conservation interests with the substantial redevelopment.

Gordon Reid, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh City Centre Management Company welcomed the work of the Cockburn Association and Malcolm Fraser: “We are delighted that such a visionary approach is being taken. This is a strong message to owners and the development sector – ‘Redevelopment proposals are being actively invited’. The Council and the Heritage lobby have come together in a proactive manner and we commend it.”

Martin Hulse, Director of the Cockburn Association, considers that “For too long we have discussed the future of Princes Street from a position of ignorance. This Framework was built around a detailed survey that examined the value of the entire street while also considering how the buildings operate.”

He now considers that a partnership is required to take this Framework forward “We need to see owners/investors working together to increase the value of their investment and the vitality of Princes Street. A framework also provides certainty to groups like the Cockburn Association who are critical of individual schemes being promoted without consideration of the wider picture.”

Malcolm Fraser states that “The redevelopment essentially works by grouping weak and under performing buildings into larger sites. Within many of these super-sites a mall can be introduced resembling that at Princes Square in Glasgow, while the value and accessibility of these malls can be increased by extending them through to Rose Street”. Malcolm explains that “In this way, protected shopping environments are created containing varied shops on multi-levels, that link Princes Street to Rose Street.”

Martin Hulse explained that it was these new pedestrian routes which would allow the city centre to operate more effectively. He also stresses that “It is essential that the quality of any new build is extremely high and that is why it has been so exciting working with Malcolm Fraser Architects on this project. If their vision can materialise then we can expect buildings of the highest calibre”.

In relation to the financial feasibility of this scheme Malcolm explains that “While there are, of course, a number of different owners on each of the sites the impetus is financial – the uplift in creating sites whose upper floors and interiors provide excellent commercial space is enormous.”

Supporting Comments
Councillor Donald Anderson, Leader of the Council said: ‘This framework is a tremendous opportunity to tackle some of Princes Street’s ugliest buildings and create new and better shopping opportunities for residents and visitors. The time is now ripe to take it forward and I anticipate major redevelopment’.

‘We are committed to making the city centre an even more enjoyable place to visit, work and live and we are already seeing unprecedented levels of investment to achieve this. We’ve earmarked more than £20m for public realm improvements and city centre shopping has been boosted by more than £100m of private sector investment. We’re keen for yet more big names to make the city centre their home, and we are determined to create the opportunities to make this happen. When you consider the array of attractions the centre already offers, from Farmers’ Markets to Capital Christmas events, these initiatives really will make it a ‘must visit’ place for everyone at any time of year.’

Dr Sean O’Reilly (Director) said ‘The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland is delighted to look at innovative thinking in how to bring forward historic places in a sensitive and appropriate fashion, and we look forward to the opportunity to look at the proposals for Princes Street in more detail. In particular we welcome the fact that architects such as Malcolm Fraser see the value of bringing forward radical ideas for constructive and open discussion in the public domain. Clearly, using the planning process as a means of achieving better solutions is a real option for designers that have talent’.

Cllr Lezley Cameron “The Cockburn Association’s innovative ideas are a welcome addition to the wider debate which is required on the future of Princes Street. It is widely acknowledged that the area needs to be reinvigorated through larger and more modern retail premises that can attract higher quality tenants.

“Considerable progress has been made in improving the retail environment in Edinburgh. Investment by New Town Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and Jenners has provided noticeable improvements but it is not just at a department store level that investment is taking place. George Street was traditionally associated with offices but has now ditched this image and is now attracting increasing numbers of upmarket retailers.

The recent announcement by Louis Vuitton that it will soon open an outlet on Multrees Walk is a reflection of this trend.
“The City of Edinburgh Council’s Executive has recently approved the five year City Centre Action Plan which provides a strategic framework that will develop and enhance the city centre into one which is worthy of Edinburgh’s status as a capital city.”

Martin Hulse, Cockburn Association : Mar 2003

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Comments / photos for the Princes Street Framework Edinburgh Architecture page welcome

Princes Street Framework : page