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Fresh bid to redevelop Edinburgh’s St Margaret’s House

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December 23 2014

Fresh bid to redevelop Edinburgh’s St Margaret’s House
Caledonian Trust have renewed an application for planning in principle for a 21,500sqm of mixed use development including residential, retail/commercial, hotel and student accommodation on the site of St Margaret’s House, an Edinburgh office block.

In their design statement Michael Laird said: “The proposed tenemental blocks to London Road relate directly to the contextual scale with vertical articulation at each end to allow landmark blocks to be emphasised.

“Height is used to articulate the end block towards the west. This structure is intended for hotel use and would act as an urban anchor for the development, giving an immediate identity and dynamic edge to the development.”

Lower ground floor parking will be offered, with landscaped courtyard decks raised above the level of an adjacent railway line.
An urban edge would be established along London Road
An urban edge would be established along London Road
The master plan would reintegrate the enclosed site with the surrounding streetscape
The master plan would reintegrate the enclosed site with the surrounding streetscape

16 Comments

T.H.Ford
#1 Posted by T.H.Ford on 28 Dec 2014 at 12:20 PM
Firstly I would like to object to this article in stating that the St Maragert House’s 151 London Road, is currently disused.

It is, in point of fact, currently Fully Occupied and has been for several years by the Edinburgh Palette, an umbrella organisation, http://www.edinburghpalette.co.uk/ which offer space for designers, artists, small businesses and other voluntary organisations affordable space to be able to work, in a city that has increasingly limited space for such.

As a result of the building has being rented and maintained by Edinburgh Palette, it is has help create a hive of bustling activity. Such is it Popularity & Demand, that there is actually a year long waiting list of people/small businesses waiting to get studio space. A Year long waiting list.

If this plan goes ahead, yes this proposal may create the opportunity for some homes, some business, but it will destroy more than just a building; it will destroy small times businesses, it will deny voluntary organisations a much needed base of operations close to the heart of the city it will further diminish Edinburgh, as a place of that welcomes and cultivates artistic ability.

In that one building is a range of artistic ability that it is equal such places as Edinburgh College of Art, or Le Mac.

Instead of being demolished for the sake of yet another Hotel, and yet another student Hall of Residence as well a limited housing commercial premises, that may or may not draw business to the area? How about investing in a building that already does? That helps promote and encourage ideas, future artist and designers, voluntary organisations that already help and benefit the city so much?

If anyone is sceptical of that statement, I'd suggest you actually go and arrange to visit it inside and thn just look at all the floor plans in the building itself - look at how many of the studios are occupied and by whom.

Speak to the people involved and ask about the community that has been created and nurtured there, then look at the proposals again. Then ask the question; How Much is really Gained? & How Much is going to be Lost?
Huhster
#2 Posted by Huhster on 28 Dec 2014 at 12:46 PM
St Mags is so disused that there is a waiting list to get a studio with www.edinburghpalette.co.uk
This building has been artist/small business premises for 7 years, maybe you should try fact checking before printing articles, unless you deliberately stated it was disused.
Michael W
#3 Posted by Michael W on 28 Dec 2014 at 12:48 PM
Your map seems to be missing the very noisy train line, hardly a great place for homes.
Nick Toth
#4 Posted by Nick Toth on 28 Dec 2014 at 15:22 PM
I can confirm that St. Margaret's is a thriving hub of activity, both commercial and voluntary and is very much not disused, and also that the train line is exceedingly noisy.

Meetings in that building probably take about 2% longer just because of the times you have to stop talking and wait for the train to rattle past. A human being having to live there for twelve hours at a stretch would probably go crazy.

I also note with interest that this development does not seek to demolish St. Margaret's twin building, the equally ugly, unintegrated, and fully-occupied Meadowbank House, next door. Why is that, I wonder?
Roy Isserlis
#5 Posted by Roy Isserlis on 28 Dec 2014 at 17:00 PM
The new Urban Realm definition-
Disused:
/ d?s?ju?zd/
adjective
a structure full to capacity but could be remodelled to increase the rent to tenants to the point nobody could afford to use it leaving it dormant and empty.
Judy Fordham
#6 Posted by Judy Fordham on 29 Dec 2014 at 05:14 AM
I am somewhat confused that the article writer has not bothered to check the status of the building. St Margarets House is full, a thriving and very busy hub of activity for a range of occupants which includes the Edinburgh Judo Club, other voluntary organisations and a whole host of artists and small business. Such space is at an ever decreasing availability and so it is vital that spaces such as St Mags remain open as it is, available and are so sought after there is a waiting list for enthusiastic people wishing to take studio or other space there. Even though the busy East coast railway line runs right past the back of the building.
Robert Lee
#7 Posted by Robert Lee on 30 Dec 2014 at 13:33 PM
I was aware of a previous bid to redevelop both St Margaret's House and Meadowbank House as a single plot, and it was my understanding (from information published on the council's website) that these plans were shelved indefinitely as Meadowbank House was to be renovated and not demolished, and the council concluded that the plots should not be developed separately.

While I agree that the pot holes in the car park of St Mag's (as it is affectionately known by those who use it) do not do the building much justice, the fact remains that it is a vibrant hub for a slice of Edinburgh's charity sector and its community. If the council wishes to demolish these much-loved facilities, it should consider it its duty to replace it with modern facilities of an equal capacity - in terms of arts space, studios, social space and more that the building currently provides, in a similar location close to the city centre. Part of the charm of the building is that it is all under one roof, and it is difficult to see where else in central Edinburgh such a service would be located.

At face value, these plans would be a knife in the heart of Edinburgh's thriving arts community.
urban realm
#8 Posted by urban realm on 30 Dec 2014 at 15:28 PM
This article has been updated to reflect the fact that St Margaret's House is not disused.
Stevie Steve
#9 Posted by Stevie Steve on 5 Jan 2015 at 13:28 PM
Regardless if the building is disced or not, St Margeret's house is hideous and that area has been robbed of a street cape for decades. I'm all for incorporating a new artist community into the proposed scheme but no way should Edinburgh have to live with that Carbuncle any longer
neil
#10 Posted by neil on 6 Jan 2015 at 14:33 PM
Stevie Steve: I basically agree with you except there is probably no way that such a development could be commercially viable. I'd love to be proved wrong though.
CADMonkey
#11 Posted by CADMonkey on 6 Jan 2015 at 16:19 PM
Why would that not be viable?
Seems there would be a 100% tenant pre-let?
Or do artists not pay rent?

Also must say...quite odd presentation material. The axo makes it looks like its by the sea, with a private beach??? And also a square poking out onto London Road???
T.H.Ford
#12 Posted by T.H.Ford on 7 Jan 2015 at 00:09 AM
@Urban Realms: Thank you for amending the document. However my previous points remain.
@Stevie Steve
Yes the building is something of an eyesore, I don't disagree on that. It was built for a particular purpose and with a practical view to the overall external design, and because of changing requirements is no longer adequate or fit for purpose, without a large amount of money spent to modernise it (see 153 london Road).
So must a building be demolished because it is an eyesore, or can it remain and be a building which is providing, and being maintained, by a lot of different local community organisations and business that directly help and benefit Edinburgh overall, solely because it is not generate enough profit for the owners? Could it not be modernised to help increase such possiblities?
It is a sad fact there are a lot of carbuncles in the built environment, both in Edinburgh and in the country generally, mostly because the design style and ideals were the 'In' thing in the past, or designed to be practical and cost effective, with little scope for aesthetics.
I would note that there are a few additional carbuncles in and around the 151 London Road, which one might also consider;
- 153(?) London Road. The building next door to St.Mags which was for long time almost identical to 151, is a Carbuncle. Yet it remains. (Perhaps because it is owned by the government and has recently been slightly renovated to to enable it more user friendly for the occupiers. So there is little or no chance of being removed anytime soon)
- Meadowbank Sport Stadium could be consider a carbuncle, because of how it looks now, having been exposed to decades of weather, and is out of place for the local built environment it's situated in (Victorian Tenements). Yet it remains (for the moment), having been renovated internally to enable it to continue to be heavily used by by the public and sporting community.
The prominent block of flats on Abbey lane/london road, with its striking green façade, which sits against it surroundings.
In light of such buildings, why can't St Margaret's House, 151 London Road, Edinburgh remain? Why does this building have to be demolished?
This development, which has been proposed by the owners/planners is attempt to try to benefit by diversifying and maximise their investment, nothing more; to appeal to as many potential markets/buyers/business to try to get a return, on their investment - how much the land is physically worth.
At the end of the day, this proposal will not benefit Edinburgh in any major way except perhaps in a slight amount of revenue being generated, in contrast, the current occupiers of that 'carbuncle' in a very real manner, are. They benefiting the People of Edinburgh. 7 floors of artistic, sporting endeavours as well as social care.

So I ask does Edinburgh have to have less of the latter, and more of the former, to survive financially? Is Edinburgh City so desperate for yet another bland Hotel, yet another prefabricated Halls of Residence and more commercial properties? Is there not space for scope for more?
In the city centre and surrounding areas/ there are buildings/sites that are deemed surplus to requirements (unfit for modern commercial and business use) with the land being dedicated or specified for hotels or Halls, and less for the actual People? There is seeming very little active provision being given to creating real multi-function premises that can be dedicated to the City's grass-root art/communities within the centre which are affordable for people to use.

Is there not a real need now to start to actively invest in providing such buildings/spaces that can be dedicated for non-specific studios spaces to enable such opportunities?

As a building, it is, as far as I am aware, viable, as a going concern. Edinburgh Palette have proven that for over 7 years, running that building.

The demand, the need is there.

This one building contains so many possibilities, and opportunities, that anyone in Edinburgh or outside can use. So if this area is to be developed, couldn't it be to help increase that?
Could not a better, more accessible renovated (or new art complex) building be created, that would help secure Edinburgh future as a City that invests in not only in it's business/Historic/tourist trade, but also it's home-grown and present Culture and people?

Or is money, in terms of commercial developments, more important?
Stevie Steve
#13 Posted by Stevie Steve on 8 Jan 2015 at 13:25 PM
@T.H.Ford: Just because there is lots of gross buildings in that are that I have to walk past and live amongst should never 'precedent to therefore keep another?' I suspect bringing the building up to current regs/standards and re-claddign or doing something to the exterior would probably cost the same as demolishing and starting again. That part of London Road is very wind swept and that building is completely out of proportion. I say demolish, start again a new streetscape approach with artist communities integrated. I'm al for making a new scheme less bland and more 'special.'
T.H.Ford
#14 Posted by T.H.Ford on 11 Jan 2015 at 21:29 PM
@Stevie Steve
I think we can both agree that the submitted proposals for the area will do nothing for that area. It will in fact benefit only those who stand to make some money from it, the developers and property owners.

You can tell that the overview for the site is one of pure commericalism. The design that has been generated has been created fulfil the following requirements;

1 hotel with A number of beds +
B Number of Affordable housing +
C(+) number of commercial units on given area +

= Net £ amount of Profit.

It is a cold and simple calculation that takes in nothing else, nothing other than those facts and requirements which will support this application.

The local residents, the local community, as a whole are not really even factored in. Why should they be? They are not Relevant, other than to try to get them to support an application, which will get rid of one eye sore (that to the developers is irrelevant and contains nothing of note...), for 10+ no. buildings that won't be as tall, but will be 3-4 storey carbuncles instead?

It would be amazing if the developers/designers would take another look at the concept and realise that they are missing a golden opportunity; To help not only themselves, but also Edinburgh in a way which it really so desperately needs, and not in a way which just will do nothing for the city, or for that area, as a whole.
Stevie Steve
#15 Posted by Stevie Steve on 12 Jan 2015 at 08:41 AM
@T.H.Ford
Sure I agree but perhaps it should have been a planning requirement? That the site should retain artist communities to a degree? Unfortunately, often developers just want to make as much money as possibly and architects are usually stuck in the middle. An architect could dismiss the job but often a less able architect would fill the gap with something much worse.

I'd say planing should have done more and maybe more public money from the council to help fund a new artist community? If its used enough and loved enough by the local community. But regardless I hate that building and its about time that area had more urban design not wind-swept tower blocks.
T.H.Ford
#16 Posted by T.H.Ford on 14 Jan 2015 at 12:57 PM
Could it be coincidence that this is being planned? The council either redeveloping Meadowbank with a compelte refurbishment or a brand new stadium. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-30812059

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