Gen Z hotels are centrepiece of £200m-plus tourism vibe in Capital
Plus red light plan to stop speeders; Edinburgh's Smart City ambitions; and Glasgow's leader tries to take a cheeky rise out of her East Coast neighbour.
Three major projects, which will see upmarket hotel chains invest around £200m in the city, have been given the green light in a matter of days. That includes a £50m plan for a new four-star hotel on St Andrew Square and a major refurbishment of The Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, the golf-lovers’ resort outside Kirknewton.
But the jewel in the crown will be a new five-star hotel on Princes Street after Munich-based Ruby Hotels was granted planning permission by the narrowest of margins. The £100m regeneration was almost blocked when five city councillors voted to throw out the proposal, but it went through on a 6-5 vote.
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Gen Z hotels: Ruby Hotels are emerging as one of the hippest hotel groups in Europe. Among the staff perks they offer are a monthly subsidy for travel on public transport and £500 for a new tattoo or piercing after six months in the job. They tell prospective staff “diversity and being different are important to us. With us you can be yourself, with a tattoo, piercing or three-colour haircut, it doesn’t matter”. Alongside the W Hotel due to open in the St James Quarter next month, they are expected to attract a growing number of younger travellers to the Capital in search of nightlife and culture.
What happens next? The Ruby Hotel marks the biggest single investment since the Johnnie Walker Centre and will breathe new life into the block vacated by Next, Zara and Russell & Bromley. The luxury hotel will create 250 jobs, regenerate a number of decaying historic buildings and bring the largely empty upper floors into use. There will be a bar, restaurant, roof terrace and shops on the ground floor. Work is expected to start early in the New Year with an anticipated opening date in 2026.
What’s not to like? The frontage design went down badly with some of the councillors who ruled on the application. SNP councillor Neil Gardiner criticised a mismatch of horizontal and vertical windows and said the design “was not good enough for Princes Street”. He suggested Ruby spend six months reworking its designs and submitting a new plan. Green councillor Chas Booth said the design, which aims to blend in with historic designs, bordered on “pastiche”. Edinburgh World Heritage also objected, but Lib Dem councillor Hal Osler pushed for approval, stressing the importance of bringing the empty buildings back into use and warning of the danger of making “perfect the enemy of good”.
A magnet for investment: The three developments continue a staggering trend of investment in and around Princes Street in recent years which is heading towards £700m, on top of the £1bn St James Quarter. That includes the Johnnie Walker Experience (£150m), the soon-to-open Red Carnation hotel (formerly the Royal Overseas League) and Japanese fashion store Uniqlo with hotel on the upper floors in the old British Home Stores on Princes Street, plus Register Lanes (£85m), Malmaison (£25m) and Gleneagles Townhouse (£17m) around St Andrew Square.
Still in the pipeline: Workers are on site at the IMPACT Concert Hall (£75m) and ROK Hotel development (£25m) in the old Top Shop/RW Forsyth building on Princes Street, with planning permission granted for combined hotel, bar/restaurant and retail developments at the former Debenhams (£50m), Jenners (£48m) and 30/31 Princes Street.
What about St Andrew Square? Another hotel will join the Gleneagles Townhouse and Malmaison on the square. The Dublin-based Dalata Hotel Group bought the site for £12.5 million and will spend more than £35 million converting the former Virgin Money offices into an upmarket hotel. The hotel will be one of the first designed to operate with zero on-site carbon and will create 60 new jobs.
And the Dalmahoy? Warner Leisure Hotels, the UK’s only hotel chain to cater exclusively for adults, plans an extensive refurbishment of the hotel known for its golf courses and leisure club. It has committed £100m to buying and refurbishing both the Dalmahoy and the Forest of Arden Country Club, a four-star golf hotel near Birmingham.
RED LIGHT FOR SPEEDERS: Edinburgh councillors are being asked to consider the introduction of speed-responsible traffic lights designed to combat motorists driving too fast in the city.
A motion by Liberal Democrat Councillor Sanne Dijkstra-Downie will go before her colleagues on the Transport and Environment Committee on Thursday, asking for a report on the feasibility and cost implications of trialling the technology in Edinburgh.
In her motion, the councillor points out that the technology is already in use in other European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands, and in parts of the US, and has been recently trialled in Canada.
She explained the speed sensitive signals “turn red when a speeding car approaches, or alternatively are red by default and only change to green when approaching drivers adhere to the speed limit. Drivers learn that speeding on streets with these signals will require them to stop at the light and be delayed as a result.”
Cllr Dijkstra-Downie is calling for a report to be prepared for the committee by February 2024 on feasibility and costs to trial the technology in Edinburgh “as a potential speed reduction measure.”
WELL DONE TO ALL THE SCOTS GUYS: The Scottish men’s rugby team are back in Scotland today after their exit from the World Cup in France. There will be a squad of bruised and battered figures nursing their extreme disappointment and anguish this week. Gregor Townsend’s team were resoundingly beaten 36-14 by a brilliant Ireland side who took no prisoners, defended with staunch brilliance and took their chances. However, the Inquirer wants to pay tribute to our own Scottish guys, many who ply their professional trade in Edinburgh. We have to accept that Ireland’s national culture and prestige is steeped in its love for and the power of rugby, while this has never been the case in Scotland. Perhaps the words of our anthem about the English king could apply as a message from Ireland to Scotland … “and sent them hameward, to think again”. Rugby is a very tough and unforgiving game. Thank you Scotland for having a go!
YOUR EDINBURGH BRIEFING
EXASCALE SUPERCOMPUTER: The UK Government has reaffirmed its intention to site Britain’s first next-generation supercomputer, which will be 50 times faster than existing machines, at the University of Edinburgh. The exascale supercomputer will be able to perform a billion billion calculations a second and will support work in areas such as artificial intelligence, drug discovery, climate change, astrophysics and advanced engineering. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced funding for Exascale as part of a wider £900 milllion package in the Spring Budget. It will be housed in a purpose-built £31 million wing of the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre’s Advanced Computing Facility, at Easter Bush, near Roslin, which was funded through the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Deal.
NHS LOTHIAN SLAVERY AMENDS: NHS Lothian has agreed to provide “non-financial reparations” after uncovering historic links to the slave trade. Research commissioned by the health board showed the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh owned slaves in Jamaica. A plantation with 39 people of African descent provided wealth worth the modern equivalent of £39m to the hospital in the 18th century. The board has agreed to raise awareness, provide education and forge new relationships to acknowledge its past.
AIRBNB CHANGE TACK: Airbnb is planning a move into long-term rentals at it faces growing restrictions on its short-term lets-based operating model in major cities around the world from New York to Edinburgh. Chief executive Brian Chesky told the Financial Times the company plans to move “a little beyond its core business” from next year, saying bookings of up to a year represented a “huge opportunity”. The move comes as some property owners in the Capital consider making that switch in the face of the city’s new licensing regime.
NO, MINISTERS: Two lodges in Holyrood Park, which are ultimately owned by the Scottish Government, have been refused permission to operate as short-term lets as part of the city’s crackdown. Historic Environment Scotland had been renting one to visitors for nearly three years before applying for retrospective permission. HES said it was ‘disappointed’ by the decision which was made on the grounds that the loss of potential residential property from the lodges at Meadowbank and Duddingston was ‘not outweighed by economic benefits’.
OLD ROYAL HIGH CONCERTS: A 300-seat concert hall, accessible public gardens and a cafe/restaurant will be at the centre of revised plans for the reopening of the old Royal High School on Regent Road. The project is being bankrolled by philanthropist Carol Grigor to the tune of £45m, but architect Richard Murphy’s plans have had to be scaled back due to a significant rise in construction costs. The Royal High School Preservation Trust said the National Centre for Music would be “a world leading cultural venue for musicians, no matter their background”.
ATTEN-SHUN! No honking in the ranks you ‘orrible lot, officer on the ice. The world’s highest-ranking penguin, Major General Sir Nils Olav, has had his Guinness World Records title revised to reflect his promotion at Edinburgh Zoo this summer from Brigadier to Major General of the Norwegian King’s Guard. Sir Nils Olav is named after two people, Major Nils Egelien, who organised his adoption by the army in 1972, and the then-King of Norway, King Olav V. The penguin has a more recent connection with Norwegian royalty after being made a knight and Baron of the Bouvet Islands in 2008 by King Harald V. Despite his honours, Sir Nils continues to reside at Penguin Rock. And if that doesn’t make you smile, we don’t know what will…
BARRACKS REGENERATION: Derelict former naval barracks in the shadow of the Queensferry Crossing are to be converted into 49 ‘mid-market’ flats, serviced holiday apartments and a cafe/restaurant. With stunning views of the bridges, the former First World War barracks at Port Edgar had lain empty and fallen victim to vandals. The former air raid shelter will become a ‘children’s play feature’ as part of plans to retain the site’s historical features.
CRIMINALLY GOOD: First Minister Humza Yousaf is not the only Scot to be hailed by Time magazine in the last week, after he appeared on its front cover as a ‘trailblazer shaping the future’ on its front page. Val McDermid’s novel A Place of Execution has been recognised by Time as one of the best mystery and thriller novels of all time. The 1999 novel focuses on the murder of a 13-year-old girl in the Peak District. The Edinburgh-based crime-writer was joined on the list by among others Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, Stephen King’s The Shining and Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale.
NOT SO MUCH WONDERWALL: The city council is to ask the Scottish Government to give its street enforcement officers the power to move on buskers deemed a nuisance. The local authority is also considering a byelaw to govern performers in popular areas such as the Old Town, Waverley Bridge and Portobello Prom. City centre councillor Finlay McFarlane, of the SNP, said residents had complained of buskers ‘playing Wonderwall on repeat for six hours’ and there was ‘heated resistance’ when they were politely asked to move to another pitch.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: The team behind Edinburgh’s tram extension to Newhaven has been awarded the Project of the Year over €50m at the Global Light Rail Awards in London. The team which delivered the £207m extension on time and budget included the city council and partners Sacyr Farrans Neopul, Morrisons Utility Services, Siemens Mobility, Turner & Townsend and Anturas Consulting. The extended line has attracted new investment into Leith including new plans for a hotel in former office space beside the tram line at 89 Constitution Street.
FILMHOUSE LANDMARK: Oscar-winner Emma Thomson has become the latest star to back the Edinburgh Filmhouse’s Open the Doors fundraising campaign to reopen the art house cinema on Lothian Road. The crowdfunder is now halfway to its initial £250,000 target with a month to go before its deadline.
FLOOD DEFENCE PAWS: Dog walkers have started weekly protests calling on East Lothian Council to pause and review the £43.5m Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme. The programme aims to protect around 3,000 homes in the town by building defences that would withstand a once in 200 years flood risk. The Pause the Flood Scheme want more nature-based options to be explored in place of concrete barriers along the Esk and the coastline. The group is raising a petition and inviting dog owners and their pets to join them in a show of opposition every Sunday at 10.30am at Fisherrow Harbour during which they will walk the route of the planned works.
MIND GAMES: World-renowned motivational speaker Watt Nicoll has been drafted in to help the Hibs football squad by new manager Nick Montgomery to help instill a winning mentality. Nicoll is known in the US as the guru of personal reinvention and his high energy style has been described as ‘verbal fireworks’. The former folk singer has worked with some of sport’s biggest names including chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov and Formula One driver David Coulthard.
GLASGOW KISS FOR THE CAPITAL? Perhaps Cammy Day can send an invitation to Susan Aitken, the SNP leader of City of Glasgow Council, to spend a day in the Capital? She couldn’t resist a wee cheeky potshot at the City of Edinburgh in an address to over 600 business figures in Glasgow last week, writes Kenny Kemp.
She spoke about how well Glasgow is doing citing a whole number of measures against comparator cities, and highlighted the Swiss-based Redmond Consultancy, which looks at property development and business investment opportunity. Their report, which Ms Aitken describes as ‘a real barometer’, has recently raised Glasgow’s standing because of the exciting new projects at St Enoch’s Centre, in Buchanan Street, and in the city’s innovation districts. It is an index which does not record Edinburgh’s performance.
Her jibe, which Inquirer presumes was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, comes at a critical time when there are increasing high-level discussions about how the Central Belt of Scotland, including both cities, can work collaboratively to attract international trade and business investment. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and Scottish Development International, have been looking at how the wider Mega-Metropolis from Forth of Clyde to Forth can promote Scotland to global investors and business. Most major business people in Scotland have clients across the nation, and our total Scottish export figures are worth £1.73bn to the whole Scottish economy.
Ms Aitken’s selective commentary could be seen purely as a populist regional viewpoint. There are a variety of lists for various aspects of the world’s leading cities, and they do provide a ‘barometer’ of cities which investors can seriously consider. According to Ms Aitken, last year Glasgow was 98th on the list she chose to highlight. “Just being in that top 100, I was so excited about it. It felt like for me a fantastic thing for Glasgow. Who would have thought that not that long ago, Glasgow would be up there competing with some of the biggest cities in the world.”
Recently, she told the Glasgow Business Awards, where she was a guest speaker, she was excited again to find that Glasgow was “sandwiched between Montreal and Shanghai at Number 61”. This received a cheers and prolonged applause at the gathering. “Our beloved neighbours here in Scotland, well, I couldn’t see them anywhere. Sorry Edinburgh!” she said. This received further cheering and applause.
“I tend not to mention the four years I spent living in Edinburgh in the early noughties. I did live in Leith because it was easier to get back to Glasgow,” she joked.
There are other barometers though, Susan. According to the Knight Frank Prime Global Index for Q2 2023, Edinburgh was Number 32, having dropped down the rankings. Glasgow does not appear in the top 50. The Resonance Consultancy’s Best European Cities, which ranks London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Zurich in the top five, has Edinburgh at Number 28, and Glasgow at Number 44. Resonance is leading adviser in tourism, real estate and economic development.
So, as a former Leith citizen, Susan Aitken must come and try out the new Tramline from York Place to Newhaven. After all, Glasgow is now planning on building its own Clyde Metro, and there might be a few lessons that could be learned to prevent Glasgow requiring its own tram inquiry!
A SMARTER CITY FOR BIN COLLECTION? Edinburgh’s advance towards becoming a Smart City of the future has been enhanced by the installation of 11,000 sensor in the city’s waste bins. [Still need a few sensors in some over-flowing bins in Hanover Street though?] While this week, Edinburgh will also hear more about how the city’s full-fibre connectivity is doing in the roll-out across the Capital.
Council leader Cammy Day said: “I’ve long been a champion of Edinburgh’s ambitions of becoming a world-leading Smart City – a digitally inclusive, data-rich, and sustainable Capital with services that are easily accessible by all our residents. So, I’m delighted that we’ve delivered a foundational platform to drive insights around how the city is operating, which we will build on into the future!
A smart city is an urban area that uses ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) sensors to collect data, then uses insights gained from them to manage assets, resources, and services to improve city operations.
The new smart Operations Centre, launched at the end of 2022, receives real-time data from the CCTV network 24/7. This integrates other technologies which will help to improve traffic flow, transport infrastructure and city planning - improving the city’s collective carbon footprint.
“We’ve installed 11,000 smart sensors in waste bins to make sure our collections are efficient, the first phase of our project towards becoming a Smart City is complete. It has seen us adopt cutting-edge low-carbon technology and it’s already helping to keep the city moving and our communities safe, also supporting all schools and young people with digital devices.
“We’ve also completed the roll-out of 1,500 environmental sensors to help us monitor and address issues in our council homes.”
Phase two of the Smart City project is expected to expand to all 20,000 homes and will also look at sourcing air and water quality sensors, which should help monitor the environment. The delivery of the new Operations Centre is part of the partnership between City of Edinburgh Council and Canadian-tech giant, CGI, primary provider of IT services for the council. CGI and Edinburgh has completed the implementation of Edinburgh Learns for Life, which enables digital learning in schools and educational establishments. The deployment to 23 secondary, 90 primary and 11 special educational schools, and 102 early years centres across the city included more than 44,000 digital devices being handed out to pupils and school staff, meaning all schoolchildren from P6 to S6 now have their own devices.
FRESH FUNDS FOR CAPITAL COMPANIES: Ambitious SMEs – small and medium-sized businesses - in Edinburgh are being encouraged to apply for new funding which is designed to grow the Capital’s business base. The British Business Bank has launched a new £150m Investment Fund for Scotland with a range of options with loans from £25,000 to £2m and equity investments up to £5m to help businesses scale up or stay ahead.
The Investment Fund for Scotland is the first solely UK government-backed investment fund for smaller businesses in Scotland, helping to increase the early-stage finance by providing options to firms that might otherwise not receive investment.
Three fund managers have been appointed to manage the fund. DSL Business Finance will manage the smaller loans part of the fund (£25,000 to £100,000), The FSE Group will be responsible for larger loans (£100,000 to £2) and Maven Capital Partners will manage equity deals (up to £5m).
Louis Taylor, Chief Executive of the British Business Bank, said: “With this fund for Scottish businesses, we hope to open the doors to new opportunities for a range of smaller firms looking to get started, grow, and develop across different sectors. We know that access to finance is a key concern for small businesses and are committed to ensuring that founders from all over the country have the same prospects in terms of finance, no matter where they are based.
WIZZAIR TAKE OFF: Budget airline Wizzair has announced its decision to move flights to destinations Budapest and Bucharest from Edinburgh to Glasgow, starting from November. Edinburgh International Airport has expressed its disappointment at losing “a valued airline partner” but stressed that routes to Budapest, Bucharest and Gdansk from Scotland’s Capital continue to be well served by Ryanair.
BRICK BY BRICK: An ideal family day out can be enjoyed at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune until the end of the month. Families can travel through time and view over 30 LEGO models showing key moments in history, from the Big Bang to the discovery of DNA. Elsewhere on site, enjoy a mini-figure trail around the museum, and check out some themed events during October half term.
CASTLE DOUBLE BILL: Old indie favourites the Manic Street Preachers and Suede are to perform a double bill concert at Edinburgh Castle as part of a British tour next summer. Tickets for the concert on July 10, 2024, go on sale on Friday.
RUM DO: If the ongoing Edinburgh Cocktail Week whets your whistle, then look no further than the Gin & Rum Festival for your next treat. It takes place at the Assembly Rooms in George Street on Saturday, 14 October. Around 120 gins and rums will be on offer [we recommend you don’t try them all] along with live music and a DJ. More information and tickets available from Gin & Rum Festival - Edinburgh - 2023 Tickets, Edinburgh | Eventbrite
SUSHI MOVE: Shinsen Sushi, popular with fans of freshly made sushi, has moved home to Morningside. The restaurant, which was previously located on Broughton Street, has now moved to the southside location at Jordan Lane.
RENOWNED CAFÉ FOR SALE: Another Morningside eatery is also in the news. Zoopla has listed Karine’s Deli and Café, on the corner of Morningside Road and Maxwell Street, with a leasehold guide price of £25,000, annual rent £21,000. Since starting out in 2014, Karine’s has built a strong reputation through its wide and varied selection of cheeses, meats, pate, bread and deli products on offer.
NEW NOODLES: Rosa’s Thai restaurant chain will open its first Edinburgh restaurant on 43 Frederick Street on 13 November. The eatery is situated in a former greengrocer’s and listed building dating from the 1700s. As part of a soft launch, it is offering 50% off food orders between 31 October to 12 November. Rosa’s Thai was co-founded by Saiphin and Alex Moore in 2008 in the East End of London and now has 36 restaurants across the UK. Saiphin opened her first noodle shop in Thailand aged 14, using produce from her parents’ farm in Khao Kho, Northern Thailand. Saiphin’s traditional brand of Thai cooking features on the menu and highlights include drunken noodles and pandan chicken with fiery sriracha, stir-fried aubergine with yellow bean sauce, creamy tom ka coconut soup with Asian mushrooms, and hand-rolled vegetable spring rolls.
SOME EXTRA HALF-TERM DIARY DATES FOR YOU
One regal option for parents looking to plan ahead for the half-term holiday in Edinburgh next week is available at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. As part of the admission, families visiting the palace on Saturday, 21 October, can explore the story of Holyrood Abbey, which stretches back almost 900 years. After learning about its fascinating history, children can make their own miniature abbey to take home during arts and crafts sessions. Short talks throughout the day will explore the surprising stories, myths and legends that connect past royal residents with the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, one of the most important buildings in Scottish history. There will also be make a mask sessions every open day from 16-28 October.
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