June 17, 2015
Like it or loathe it – it’s happening
Despite almost universal dismay at the quality of design for the Caltongate development in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town (as one councillor put it, the plans weren’t quite hideous enough to reject), demolition and construction work is now well underway. Throughout the process, the community have tried to stay engaged with the developers in a bid to secure some kind of benefit and lasting legacy for local people. Local arts based group Work in Progress Edinburgh are using creative interventions to link up the local community with the changes going on around them.
WIPE is a group of independent artists, creative practitioners, urbanists, activists and others who like to work collaboratively to improve urban environments, support communities, and make better use of public spaces and vacant sites through creative and temporary projects.
The previous developers placed £100k bond as a guarantee against the prospect of the gap site at New Street creating urban blight. WIPE are asking for that money to be transferred to the community as compensation for having to live with this gap site over many years. They would also ask that WIPE be given premises from which to operate so that they can more effectively act as a link between the developer and the wider community.The local perspective is that the planning conditions and agreements that have been made with the developers are completely ineffective in managing and controllingthis development.
Most recent update
The buildings being demolished just now include the listed historic community building (The Old Sailors Ark) and the social housing (McRae flats) to provide the third hotel on site on the Royal Mile. Residents are not being kept informed of progress or phasing making living here really hard as roads get closed and building work continues over weekends and evenings without neighbours being given any notification.
The developers are now gearing up their marketing strategy to get the Arches filled with bars and cafes prepared to pay high rents (£10K – £25K an arch) despite local businesses, organisations and residents wanting to utilise them as workshops and studios. The developers acquired these arches on a 125 year pepercorn rent from the council on the grounds that the whole development (Caltongate) wouldnt stack up if they had to pay full market rent to take them over and redevelop them as artist studios. No sign of the community spaces or affordable Class 4 business space which would be retained/provided either, so far just the hotels being developed and now turning to focus on creating more high rent retail space for bars and cafes in the Arches.