Edinburgh Today

St James' Centre


Saint James Square

In the 1960s, the houses in and around St James' Square, near the top of Leith Walk were demolished and on the site was built:

-  St James Centre, shopping centre

-  New St Andrew's House, offices

-  King James Hotel.

Looking down on Haymarket  -  View to the north-east towards Dean  -  6 December 2003

The office  block has come to be regarded as Edinburgh's ugliest building with large areas of concrete so close to the city centre.  Its redevelopment has been long awaited.


St James Centre was put on the market by its owners, Coal Pension Properties in October 2005. 

It was announced on 6 January 2006 that the centre has been sold for 169m to the Northern Irish developer, Michael Herbert's company, Donegal Place Investments.  The company also bought Cross Gates Centre in Leeds in 2005.



It is expected that at least 150m will need to be spent on redeveloping the site.  The New St Andrew's House office block is almost certain to be demolished.

The 147-bed Thistle Hotel is expected to survive, though it may be refurbished.

It is expected that the redevelopment will include up to 200 apartments and a new store, similar in size to the John Lewis store in the centre.

Shops in this part of the city have seen better prospects since the opening of Harvey Nichols in St Andrew Square. 

Edinburgh Evening News,  January 6, 2006, pp.1,6.
Herald & Post,  January 12, 2006:  p.1


St James' Centre

Update - March 2006


The new owners of the St James Centre, Donegal Place Investments, had  been expected to announce redevelopment plans soon after purchasing the property.  These were expected to include demolition of the much-criticised former Scottish Office building on the site.

However, Donegal Place have now denied that they have any such plans.  It is believed that re-development  of the site would not be straightforward due to complexities of the existing lease agreements.  

In December 2005, Morgan Stanley acquired a long lease on some of the properties from Royal Bank of Scotland.  Morgan Stanley have not yet announced their intentions for the site.

Edinburgh Council is keen to see the 5-acre site redeveloped and the former Scottish Office building demolished.  This building, above the shopping centre, has lain empty since 1995 when it was vacated after asbestos was discovered.

Edinburgh Council has offered to host a meeting of the three major parties involved, in an attempt to agree on a way forward.

Edinburgh Evening News,  March 7, 2006:  pp.6-7


St James' Centre

Update - April 2006



The Edinburgh Evening News has reported speculation that, after owning the St James Centre complex for only five months, Donegal Place Investments are likely to sell it on to Henderson Global Investors, possibly for around 184m..

Henderson Global Investors also hold investments in other shopping centres, and specialise in developing properties.  So this raises hopes that there may be a major redevelopment of the St James Centre site, removing a blight from the centre of Edinburgh.

 Edinburgh council leader, Donald Anderson, and other leaders, have welcomed this news.

Edinburgh Evening News,  May 7, 2006:  p.7


St James' Centre

Update - July 2006


Henderson Global Investors, the new owners of St James Centre have announced a 200m redevelopment plan has been announced for St James Centre.  It is proposed to more than double the centre's shopping space to 950,000 sq. ft.

Henderson Global Investors are already involved in retail developments at The Bullring in Birmingham and Bluewater in Kent.

It is proposed to

-  add two extra floors of shops above the mall

-  increase John Lewis' selling space by 25%

-  create a new department store to replace St James House.

-  possibly add leisure facilities such as a bowling alley.

-  add new flats and offices above the extended shopping centre.

-  increase car parking spaces from 500 to between 1,600 and 2,000

-  retain the Thistle Hotel

This proposal was welcomed by Edinburgh council leader, Donald Anderson, who described it as "the best news in decades for shopping in Edinburgh".

Developers hope that work on this project will begin in 2007 and be completed in 2008.

Edinburgh Evening News,  July 4, 2006:  pp1-3.


St James' Centre

Update - September 2006


The architects who are to create a masterplan for the St James Centre have been announced.  They are:

-  Building Design Partnership (BDP) who have already produced masterplans for Liverpool, Sheffield, Livingston and Melbourne waterfront district. AND

-  Allan Murray, the Edinburgh architects who have been involved with the Omni Centre and The Tun.

The masterplan is expected to be completed in late 2007 to be followed by a planning application during 2008. 

The architects predict that the masterplan is likely to include:

-   demolition of the St James House office block

-   doubling of the retail space

-   parking for 2,000 cars

-  housing and restaurants with panoramic views over Calton Hill, Salisbury Crags and Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Evening News,  September 26, 2006:  p.9.


St James' Centre

Update - April 2007

Underground Links

In response to requests from heritage groups, Edinburgh Council is now looking at the possibility of providing escalator links and underground walkways through the old disused tunnels under Princes Street and St Andrew Square.  These would  to link Waverley Station, the Edinburgh Bus Station and the new shopping and housing development to be  built at St James Centre.


Edinburgh Evening News,  April 16, 2007:  p,11


St James' Centre

Update - May 2007

Demolition of Most of the Site?

The new owners of St James Centre, Henderson Global Investors (HGI) had envisaged demolishing only parts of the existing St James Centre in their initial 200m plans.

However, one of the options now at an early stage of being considered by HGI is to demolish almost the entire centre, everything except the John Lewis store. Such a re-development would need to be done in stages.  The first planning application for the site might be submitted in early-2008.

The option to demolish and re-build almost the entire site, has been welcomed by the management of John Lewis and by City Leader, Jenny Dawe.

The number of car parking spaces at the centre could be increased from 500 to 2,000 as a result of the redevelopment.

Edinburgh Evening News,  May 29, 2007,  p,11


St James' Centre

Update - January 2008

Proposed Development

Proposals for an 850m development of St James Centre have been announced.

It is proposed to demolish:

-  the existing shopping centre

-  the adjoining office block

-  Thistle Hotel

and to build a crescent-shaped arcade, sweeping from Multress Walk to the top of Leith Street, and linked to John Lewis' store.  The arcade is inspired by the 19th century Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, and would have a glass roof and stone buildings.

The development would include many more shops than are at present on the site.  Three distinctive new buildings are also proposed.  They would include hotels, apartments and offices,

The scheme could begin in 2010 and could be completed by 2015.

Edinburgh Evening News,  January 23, 2008:  p.9.

Metro:  January 24, 2008.


St James' Centre

Update - January 2009


Developers, who are planning to demolish the St James Centre have announced that they intend to wrap the upper floors of the existing  New St Andrew's House offices in an illuminated banner.

The banner would measure 240 ft x 60 ft, and would be in the form of a large jigsaw, with a picture of the inside of the proposed development gradually building up.

The banner has been recommended for approval by Edinburgh council officials, and is expected to be approved at the next meeting of the Planning Committee.  It  could be in place for three years

Edinburgh Evening News,  January 8, 2009:  p.8.


St James' Centre

Update - October 2009


In order to carry out their development of the St James Centre, developers, Henderson Global Investors, claimed that they would have to demolish the King James Hotel.

However the operator, Thistle Hotels have not been willing to move away from their current location.  This impasse threatened the whole project.

However, a solution has been found.  Edinburgh Council has agreed that the developers may buy the Picardy Place roundabout at its market value at the time of the sale, and will be permitted to build new a hotel on the site.  Thistle Hotels are expected to accept this location.

It is planned that the new St James Quarter will include 90 shops and 250 homes.  Demolition work is due to begin in 2011 and the project is due to be completed in 2016.

Edinburgh Evening News,  October 6, 2009, pp.6,7


St James' Centre

Update - December 2009


Developers, Henderson Global Investors, have launched their 850m plans for their 'St James Quarter' project at a gathering of international investors in Cannes.  They expressed delight at the level of interest shown to date by restaurants, hoteliers and others.

The developers intend to submit a detailed planning application in 2011.

Edinburgh Evening News,  December 1, 2009, p.11


St James' Centre

Update - March  2010

Revised Plan

Henderson Global Investors

 say that they have dropped plans to include a major office development on their, due to market conditions.  Instead, they intend to create a facility that could be used as a 'boutique cinema', conference centre or Festival venue.  They hoped it would also be able to broadcast live sport in 3D.

The St James Centre is expected to be closed from January 2012 until Spring 2016 to allow the new development to go ahead.  John Lewis is expected to be the only store in the centre that will stay open during the redevelopment.

Edinburgh Evening News,  March 24, 2010, p.10


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