A mixed use development in the heart of Edinburgh city centre is progressing well.
The property is now home to a 259 bedroom Accor Ibis Hotel, a new Sainsbury’s Local and a Costa Coffee, as well having 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the Cowgate frontage of the property.
The building spans nine storeys with a central courtyard linking all aspects of the development via a relaxed, public space. The Sainsbury’s store and Costa Coffee outlet, which are now open, can be found on the property’s fourth level. The hotel reception can also be accessed via the fourth floor, with some bedrooms and the hotel’s restaurant located on the floor below.
The Soco development comprises a mix of converted tenement buildings and a new build. The site originally was the home of a group of medieval, tenement buildings before a large fire in 2002 burned the whole block down. Previous owners Whiteburn Projects Ltd sold the site to Jansons Property who have headed this development.
Premier Construction caught up with Michael Tomkins, Development Director from Jansons Property, to find out more about Soco. He said:
“After buying the site back in 2002 we applied for planning permission for the 259 bedroom Accor Ibis Hotel. The site belongs to World Heritage, so when we applied for planning permission, we had to work closely with World Heritage and Historic Scotland to come up with a design that they would approve.
“The Cowgate junction of the property is medieval in its design as project designers, ICA Architects, attempted to replicate the old town of Edinburgh. The Southgate junction has a Georgian facade which blends in with the rest of the properties along the street. The development took an awful lot of planning to reach a design that World Heritage would agree to.
“I am very excited about the exterior of the development as we collaborated with World Heritage to develop an original design. The building is now up for three awards at the Scottish Property awards in February as a result of this considered design approach.”
Work on site began in November 2012; the site had previously remained dormant for some time due to the tricky economic climate. The project began with six weeks of archaeology works before the construction team could start to pile the foundations. The building required a lot of underpinning as the pre-existing tenement buildings were built 300 years ago and therefore had no foundations.
The team worked around the related groundwork complications and, after these issues were dealt with, work began on erecting the new structure. The on site team encountered difficulties because of the 18th century bridge viaduct structure on the south bridge. It needed to be held up during construction and therefore posed a big challenge for the team.
Within the existing buildings the construction team had to take staircases out, knock through walls, and gut the entire shell before other works could commence. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring the bedrooms were acoustically lined, meaning noise within rooms is contained, and sound standards were met.
The hotel opened to the public on the 13th January 2013 and was undergoing the soft fit out stage in the first week of January. The Accor Ibis is the largest hotel company in Europe with its flagship hotel based in Paris. Due to the hotel being part of a wider hotel group Jansons Property, the developer of the Soco site, did not have much freedom with the internal design of the 259 bedrooms. All of the bedrooms had to adhere to the Accor Ibis brand standards.
Project designers ICA did have design input with regards to the hotel’s buffet style restaurant and the entrance area. The restaurant contains contemporary wooden floors and exposed concrete columns which guests can admire during breakfast and evening meals. The design of these public areas centres on a bespoke Scottish theme.
The retail units in the Cowgate section of the development have just been released, Development Director Michael Jansons Property are currently marketing the units and looking for occupiers, Michael thinks that the tenants buying the spaces will be in the bar and restaurant industry.
McAleer & Rushe Ltd were the construction workers involved in the project. The Belfast based firm have a vast amount of experience in building hotels and worked alongside ICA Architects. The East Kilbride based firm splits over three different departments ICA Architects, ICA Interiors and ICA Hotel Services. ICA was established in 2003 and has worked in various industries including the leisure, commercial development, residential, education, retail, offices and public buildings.
Developer Jansons Property has now forward sold the mixed use property to LaSalle Investment Management. Jansons is a property developer and investor, with a diverse portfolio including the conversion of office premises, transforming an office campus into a retail park, trade park conversions and mixed use developments.
Michael Tomkins from Jansons Property said:
“It has been the most challenging project we have done to date given its World Heritage status; but it has been very successful for us in a difficult economic climate. We have enjoyed working closely with Edinburgh City Council to deliver the site and McAleer & Rushe Ltd was a great contractor to work with as well.”