A MODERN office block in the city centre is set to be demolished to make way for shops, offices and luxury flats.
Banking giant Abbey has drawn up plans to replace the 1960s former Scottish Provident building on the south side of St Andrew Square with a new multi-million-pound complex.
It is understood large shop units would be created in the basement, lower ground, ground and first floors of the new building with around five levels of offices above.
The building would be topped off with more than a dozen prestigious apartments, including a penthouse featuring sweeping views of the Firth of Forth.
The plans mark another step in the ongoing regeneration of the city centreâ€™s east end - alongside the opening of Harvey Nichols in 2002 and success of nearby designer shops in Multrees Walk.
However, the proposal will raise eyebrows among the architectural community. City design leader Riccardo Marini has even labelled the former Scottish Provident building as his favourite in Edinburgh.
It is understood Abbey has decided demolishing the vacant B-listed Scottish Provident building is the only realistic option as it is unable to revamp the interior to house modern offices or shops.
Unlike many current shop units in Princes Street, the proposed development would have large floor spaces and is therefore likely to be popular with retailers. It is believed talks between the company and city officials are already at an advanced stage, although a detailed planning application may not be lodged for months.
A spokesman for Abbey was tight-lipped about the plans today.
He said: "A full assessment of the buildings in St Andrew Square is currently being undertaken.
"Abbey is expecting to examine a range of options on the site.
"It would be inappropriate to comment in any detail until discussions with all the relevant parties have been advanced further.
"Ensuring an appropriate and swift re-use of this prestigious site in the heart of the city centre is in the best interests of the whole community."
John McGregor, a leading chartered surveyor who helped bring Harvey Nichols to Edinburgh, said the former Scottish Provident building would have to be demolished as part of any redevelopment.
He said: "The building on the outside may well be attractive, but the floor to ceiling height is poor.
"You would not be able to do a successful scheme on that site with the existing building."
The proximity of Harvey Nichols and Multrees Walk to the site would also attract retailers and shoppers, Mr McGregor said.
"The future of retailing in Edinburgh is at the east end. This will be a good opportunity," he added.
Roy Durie, spokesman for commercial property agent Ryden, added: "It would be good to have retail on the lower floors. Harvey Nichols and the Walk are upmarket. St Andrew Square also relates well to George Street while that end of Princes Street is good. Penthouse flats would do very well on the top. In Paris, they are an automatic choice. There would be fantastic views."
But Peter Wilson, director of the Manifesto Foundation for Architecture at Napier University, hit out at the prospect of demolition.
He said: "It is one of the best post-war buildings in Scotland. It is certainly a remarkable building. It is a particular style of architecture. It went back to the simple tradition of architecture and has a clear attitude towards form and function.
"For the sake of commercial gain, it would be a retrograde step to knock it down."
Council leader Donald Anderson today threw his support behind the plans.
"I think it is a fantastic opportunity and I am really keen to see the site developed," he said.
Councillor Anderson added that he was also not opposed to the demolition of the listed building "as long as it is replaced by something of high enough quality".
- Old Master
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BTH wrote:It wold be an absolute travesty to let this superb building be swept away. It's definitely among the best buildings in Edinburgh...
I'm glad you brought this one back up again, this building is as you say superb and no doubt influenced many architects in executing contemporary infill offices. I'm very surprised it is happening in Edinburgh of all places
- PVC King
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