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St James' Centre


(St James Centre)

Located on Leith Street in Edinburgh, just to the northeast of Princes Street is the St James' Centre. The centre consists of a shopping mall, with the Thistle Edinburgh Hotel (previously the King James Thistle Hotel) at the front, an immense office block, known as New St Andrew's House, to the west and a multi-storey car park to the north. The anchor store is John Lewis, which occupies a semi-separate building to the east of the development.

Once known as Clelland's Park and Bunker's Hill, the area was developed in the late 17th century by James Craig (1744-95), architect of the New Town, to form St. James' Square. By the 20th century the neighbourhood had declined and became a centre of industry (particularly printing). The St. James' Square development was mostly levelled in 1965; the only survivals being a row of tenement buildings which had represented the southwestern side of the square and St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral. The St. James' Centre was begun the same year amongst great controversy and opened in 1970. Objections went unnoticed by the unholy trinity of the City Corporation, the Scottish Office and the builders. The resulting lump of concrete was certainly not a building of which Edinburgh could be proud, although architecturally it was slightly improved by an extension to the east which was completed in the late 1980s. The only positive result to come from the whole unfortunate scheme were a strengthening of the conservation movement in the city and in particularly the abandonment of plans for an urban motorway which it was proposed would pass just to the northeast of the Centre.

New St. Andrew's House formed the major part of the old Scottish Office, the centre of government in Scotland, until that institution moved to Victoria Quay in Leith in 1995. It has subsequently lain empty.

Given the disused office accommodation and ageing shopping centre, an 850 million redevelopment plan was given planning permission in 2015. Architecturally-bold, this is proving as controversial as the original development. Excepting only the John Lewis building, the centre is due to be demolished in 2016.


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