Fresh plans for Debenhams Princes Street site revealed

Edinburgh residents are being invited to have their say on £50 million blueprints to transform the Debenhams department store on Princes Street into a hotel, leisure and retail “hub” ahead of an official planning application being lodged with city chiefs next month.

Monday, 21st September 2020, 7:30 am
The blueprints for the Debenhams sites
The blueprints for the Debenhams sites

An online pre-application public consultation has opened to inform design proposals for the multi-use facility within the current store at 109-112 Princes Street.

The plans for the site also include a four-star hotel with rooftop bar, a street level restaurant and a public path linking Princes Street to Rose Street running through the centre of the building, lined with shops, restaurants and cafés which prioritise local businesses and suppliers. The space could also potentially be used for events during the festivals season.

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Financial services company Legal & General, which owns the building in the L&G UK Property Fund, said the hotel is likely to open in the latter half of 2024, with Debenhams set to leave the property in the next couple of years.

The original units date from the 19th century and have been used as a hotel, as well as 
housing the Scottish Liberal Club and the Scottish Conservative Club. The site was taken over by Debenhams in the 1970s.

The store operator went into administration in April this year and has since announced dozens of closures in Britain. In recent weeks, it has reopened all 15 of its remaining stores in Scotland, including its main Edinburgh outlet, as the country emerged from lockdown.

It is the latest high-profile redevelopment of property on Princes Street following the Johnnie Walker Experience in the former Frasers’ store and plans for Jenners.

The consultation states: “The proposed concept design creates and restores castle views by resolving the alignment of floors and windows and creates a coherent and exciting journey through the building. A characterful and vibrant hotel with a ground floor restaurant, basement spa and a rooftop bar are proposed.” As part of this approach, a “dynamic and iconic” design is sought for the site sandwiched between two listed façades to enhance the streetscape and promote visual connections to Princes Street Gardens and the Old Town.

The consultation concludes: “The proposal seeks to replace the 1978 glazed infill façade which is sited between the two historic listed façades with a new, modern intervention. Befitting of an upper upscale hotel, the new façade infill will positively re-establish the building’s identity.”

Matt Jarvis, senior fund manager at Legal & General, said: “Through our plans, we are looking to create a vibrant destination spot in the middle of Princes Street, providing a new hotel, restaurant and sky bar which provides some of the best views anywhere in the city.

“It will be a space where Edinburgh residents and visitors can enjoy a unique experience, whether that’s fine dining, drinks or just a stroll through the new link to Rose Street.”

Detailed proposals can be viewed at 111princesstreet.co.uk. The consultation ends on October 8.

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