Currently under construction with its doors set to open next year, Edinburgh St James will be a world renowned, retail-led, mixed-use destination for the future. Here, RLI sits down with Martin Perry, Director of Development at Edinburgh St James, to learn more about this game-changing project.

Aworld-class example of city-enhancing placemaking, Edinburgh St James is one of the UK’s largest and most significant regeneration projects. It is the direct result of the best in class design and delivery. With an estimated investment value of over £1bn, the development will create a 1.7 million square feet urban resort, comprising 850,000sq ft of retail space. Edinburgh St James will be anchored by John Lewis, a five-screen Everyman Cinema, luxury aparthotel brand Roomzzz, and a world-class 244-room W Edinburgh, representing the hotel brand’s first hotel in Scotland. In addition, 152 private apartments will offer breathtaking views over the city and set a premium standard for prime residential accommodation.

Little King Street
Little King Street

“The thinking behind the scheme is that Edinburgh has not had any real major investment for a number of years, and this presented the rare opportunity to develop a retail-led project in a top ten European city,” says Martin Perry, Director of Development at Edinburgh St James. “The project’s retail and leisure elements are anticipated to complete in 2020 and we remain on time and budget, which is always a bonus for a project of this size and scale!”

The retail leasing began in the autumn of last year. A major milestone was reached a number of months ago with the signings of multiple brands from the Inditex group. A flagship Zara store has been signed, along with leases for a Stradivarius, a Bershka and a Pull&Bear. Alongside these brands are a number of companies who are returning to the site after concluding new deals. These include the likes of Next, Superdrug and Boots, adding to what will be an exceptional retail offering on site upon completion, with multiple more deals currently in the pipeline.

“We want the project to have a flavour of the city in everything it does, a proper piece of Edinburgh, allowing for complete connectivity across its multiple uses. We have a put a lot of work into this idea of partnerships with brands within the scheme, but also the partnerships between these brands and groups outside of the development. We have built key relationships with city institutions such as Edinburgh Airport, and aligned brands working together like W with Next. We are trying to create a synergy between all the different offerings within Edinburgh St James,” explains Perry. With such a large-scale project, connectivity and accessibility has been absolutely vital throughout the planning stages. For example, the main rail station is located just one minute away, as is the main bus station, there are two tram stops on either side of the scheme, multiple cycle routes and 75 per cent of city centre off-street parking is within a two minute walk. Being a retail-led scheme, one of the key points of the scheme is the completion of a primary ‘retail circuit’. This will encompass Princes Street, Hanover Street, George Street, through St Andrew Square and circling back through Multrees Walk to complete the circuit.

“The thinking behind the scheme is that Edinburgh has not had any real major investment for a number of years, and this presented the rare opportunity to develop a retail-led project in a top ten European city”

St James Square
St James Square

According to Perry, the site is dotted with anchor points, including the John Lewis store, while Multrees Walk has a Harvey Nichols department store, with Apple having a location outside the scheme on Princes Street. If visitors carry along Princes Street they will reach Marks & Spencer, H&M and Primark before coming back onto George Street, where White Stuff, All Saints and Hobbs are situated. Visitors can then carry on back through to St Andrew Square and Harvey Nichols, completing the retail-led loop for people coming to enjoy Edinburgh St James and the city’s wider offering.

Edinburgh St James is also committed to setting positive green benchmarks, and one of the key methods of doing this is the idea of using the waste of one area to power another. Perry explains: “Electricity is used for the car parking areas and the general areas around the scheme. The by-product of that electricity is hot water, which can then be used for heating the hotel, the residential or the aparthotel, and then any waste from that can in turn be put through the chillers, which is then used for the air conditioning in the retail units. So in essence we have tried to create this little micro-ecological system that all works together.” In relation to its social media output and mobile offerings, Edinburgh St James is just employing a key member of the team to oversee all of the schemes’ social media outgoings.

As well as this, resources are being utilised to create a one-stop app for th project. On this app, people will be able to go on their phone and see a whole digital representation of the estate and visitors will be able to browse the retail offering, book a hotel room, sort out evening plans in the cinema and/or restaurant. All of this is adding to the connectivity of the different uses of the project. Perry feels that the project represents a long-term investment into a city and its culture. Rather than making a profit and return, it is about being a part of a wider city for a long period of time. “We believe in this city and its prospects and we’re prepared to take a very long view in what we are creating. We genuinely believe this is the future of retail mixed-use development,” concludes Perry.