In July this year, the UK Government announced it had selected Edinburgh’s New Waverley as the centrepiece of a new HMRC HQ function, bringing 2,900 civil service jobs into the historic heart of the city’s Old Town.
The new development, adjacent to Waverley Railway Station, will deliver grade-A offices to be occupied by civil servants from several UK Government departments. The hub will provide high quality, skilled jobs to the city centre, as well as contributing to the local economy.
Described at the time as the city’s largest office leasing deal for more than two decades, the announcement makes a dramatic statement about how social and economic attitudes have changed regarding our city centres.
The deal – forged by Artisan Real Estate Investors, the investment partnership behind the £200m New Waverley development – marks the final piece of a complex jigsaw that has become a blueprint for urban regeneration in sensitive city-centre locations.
Clive Wilding, Artisan’s project director for New Waverley:
Bringing in such a significant influx of working professionals into the Old’s Town’s UNESCO world heritage site shows that even the most protected and fragile of urban environments can be adapted to meet the needs of a modern, forward-looking city.
Award-winning urban regeneration
“People now want to work in happening and exciting areas, where you can get a decent coffee before you get to the office, have interesting places to discover at lunchtime and plenty to do after work. They want hustle and bustle, vibrancy and excitement – as well as decent transport links and contemporary and engaging office space.
“The Government recognised this by choosing New Waverley, whilst at the same time making a powerful statement of intent about what the future should look like for our historic city centres. They shouldn’t be museum pieces or curiosities for coach tours – rather a living and breathing heart creating interest and employment, allowing the rest of the city to follow suit – much as they have been for centuries beforehand.”
The UK Government deal is another major step towards completion of one of the most challenging urban regeneration projects of its generation. It allows the next office phase to be finished by 2020, providing some 190,000 sqft. of modern office accommodation overlooking a new public square, linking to the historic Royal Mile.
New Waverley will also create up to 1,750 additional jobs in retail & hospitality and is expected to contribute £43m GVA to the local economy annually.
But it is the development’s innovative mixed-use credentials that have gained New Waverley plaudits – which include scooping top honours at both the 2017 Scottish Property Awards and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards.
Placemaking in action
During the last two years, the development has delivered more than 400 new hotel rooms – a Premier Inn and a Hub by Premier Inn – and an Accor Adagio Aparthotel. As well as 45 affordable homes, New Waverley has also transformed a row of Victorian arches into a new artisan-based leisure café and specialised retail district for the city. Currently under development is a boutique hotel by Apple Apartments, and a further 148 new homes are also planned.
“The Government deal wouldn’t have happened without this mixed-use platform created as part of our first phase development. We worked hard to create a design masterplan, which could adapt and fit with what was a rather awkward segment of the city’s Old Town,” Clive adds.
“From the start, we knew we had to create a buzz around New Waverley, celebrating its unique heritage and setting, while pointing to the future. We wanted to create great destinations for people to go, to stay and to talk about, and seamlessly merge it with the rest of this vibrant part of the city. This was the platform that allowed us to create a well-defined sense of place, which was a critical precursor to developing our commercial offering.”
The transformation of The Arches is a stand out example of New Waverley’s placemaking in action. The row of 19th century arches, previously used as industrial storage units, now presents a showcase for the rest of the development, bringing together an edgy mix of independent start-ups covering a range of unique food, drink and retail offerings.
A growing investment portfolio
Significantly for Artisan, the experience of New Waverley and its relationship with the city has allowed the predominantly South African investment partnership to expand its commitment to the capital – and to Scotland.
Earlier this year, Artisan acquired the 22,000 sqft. Abbeyhill Industrial Estate, located just off London Road, and has also received planning permission for 180 high quality apartments for its Canonmills Garden scheme, overlooking the Water of Leith.
The current investment activity underlines Artisan’s confidence in Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole, buoyed by the successful delivery of the New Waverley.
Clive adds: “Scotland now represents a major share of Artisan’s UK investment holdings and we are looking forward to significant progress on all fronts over the next few years, especially with the start of the next construction phase at New Waverley.”