Edinburgh World Heritage - Princes Street


Princes Street

EWH has helped to rethink approaches to the challenge of re-using the vacant upper floors on a corner block of Princes Street. Flats and serviced apartments are suggested as the most viable use, taking advantage of the views across Princes Street Gardens to the castle, and with access created via a new garden terrace at the rear of the properties.

The study, carried out by Malcolm Fraser Architects with Grit and Pearl in 2009, was funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage. It looks in detail at the corner block of Princes Street and Hanover Street, including buildings in Rose Street.

Any development would have to meet commercial needs, maintain historical and architectural interest, and deal with quite a large number of owners and occupiers. However a key challenge is that in many cases the staircases from the ground to first floors have been removed in the past, in order to maximise the space available for retail.

The study showed that the historic interiors of the properties are surprisingly intact, and retain their modest townhouse scale, making a large retail or hotel use less practical.  However a carefully designed mix of flats, townhouses and serviced apartments, operating as individual buildings but with a communal entry to unlock access to the upper floors, would be compatible with the listed buildings.

A garden terrace is proposed in Rose Street, giving access to the rear of properties on Hanover and Princes Street.

This not only allows for direct entry to the upper floors giving the all important sense of a ‘front door’, but also creates a pleasant green environment (currently dominated by air conditioning units) acting as a buffer between the apartments and the street.

Lessons learned from the study will be shared with the owners of the buildings, and could be applied to other parts of Princes Street to show what can be achieved with the street’s historic buildings.
The Conservation Development Study included 70–77 Princes Street, 1-33 Hanover Street, and 32 Rose Street. Key aims of the project were:

  1. Maintain and enhance the City’s historic core
  2. Promote the reuse/occupation of historic listed buildings on the site.
  3. Bring into sensitive re-use, upper floors of these buildings.
  4. Maintain effective retail and commercial use on the lower levels.
  5. Aim to demonstrate a holistic site wide development of this block would make commercial sense.
  6. Aim to continue compatible uses, with effectiveness of retail as primary.
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