£200m plan for St James Centre

By Ian Fraser

Sunday Herald

July 2nd, 2006


Edinburgh's St James Centre from the air

HENDERSON Global Investors has unveiled ambitious plans for the transformation of the St James Centre in Edinburgh, more than doubling the retail space in a development which could cost up to £200 millon.

The London-based fund management company, which bought the complex at the east end of Princes Street from Donegal Place Investment for £184m last month, will embark on a complete regeneration of the five-acre site next year.

The project, which is expected to be completed in 2008, will almost certainly include the demolition of the St James House office block, frequently dubbed Edinburgh’s ugliest building.

It will also include the overhaul of the existing mall, the construction of two or three additional levels of retail space and the erection of a second department store.

The complex currently includes a 200,000 sq ft single-storey mall, the 250,000 sq ft John Lewis department store, the St James House office building (which formerly housed the Scottish Office) and three multi-storey car parks.

The redevelopment is expected to include additional parking and new office space above the retail levels.

Myles White, who manages the £760m Henderson Shopping Centre Fund, a Jersey property unit trust, said: “Our vision is to make this the best retail-led development in the UK.”

Andrew Murphy, managing director of the John Lewis department store in Edinburgh, said: “The prize for Edinburgh city centre is enormous.

“Far be it for me to stoke up inter-city rivalry . . . but this is going to offer a much better retail experience than the Buchanan Galleries, with a much better tenant mix.”

Henderson Global Investors already owns Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries, Princes Quay in Hull, the Bullring in Birmingham, as well as a part share in Bluewater in Kent.

Murphy said: “This will enable Edinburgh to punch above its weight in retail terms, providing one of the best concentrations of quality retail outside Birmingham, Manchester and London. It should enable Edinburgh to rocket up the retail league tables from its current ninth position in the UK to fourth or fifth.”

The St James Centre’s retail space is likely to be more than doubled to around 950,000 sq ft. “There is clear demand for an additional 500,000 sq ft of retail space in Edinburgh city centre and we believe the St James site can accommodate this,” said White.

White said Henderson is launching a global architectural competition to select a design for the centre.

Three retail consultancies have been retained for the project – Cushman & Wakefield, Culverwell and Lunson Mitchenall.

There is speculation that Selfridges, which mothballed plans for a Glasgow store, and has no Scottish presence may be approached to become a tenant and Fenwick’s could also be in the frame.

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