The former Debenhams on Princes Street is to become a boutique hotel and hospitality hub.

The planning application has proceeded to the next planning committee on 2 June 2021, and is recommended for approval.

The development will be a £50 million investment with restaurant and rooftop bar with views to Edinburgh Castle, a 207 room boutique hotel, spa and a new pedestrian link between Princes Street and Rose Street. There will be spaces dedicated to shopping, dining, hospitably, leisure and public events.

Debenhams, Princes Street, Edinburgh. Photo: Martin P. McAdam

This scheme harks back to the café culture look for Princes Street proposed years ago by Jan Gehl Architects, who recommended opening up the street to hospitality businesses, and more cyclists than buses. The firm also recommended closing the street for special events, but this would now only be partially possible as the tramline is in place.

The plans have the support of Essential Edinburgh, the city centre Business Improvement District and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

Roddy Smith, Chief Executive of Essential Edinburgh said, “Our city centre is reeling from the aftermath of the Covid-19 Crisis. We need new investment to give people new reasons to visit the city centre and to ensure that buildings do not lie empty for long. Legal & General is to be congratulated for bringing forward high quality proposals at just the right time to make a real difference to both Princes Street and Edinburgh.”

Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce said, “Princes Street has faced unprecedented change in recent years that has been compounded by the increase in on-line retail and Covid. This new Boutique Hotel at Debenhams alongside the new Johnnie Walker Visitor Centre, the refurbished BHS building and the recently announced plans for Jenners shows just how much potential there is for Princes Street and the city centre to bounce back better and stronger. We’re delighted to support this major investment as part of a holistic approach to regenerating Prices Street and the wider Waverley Valley.” 

The buildings have previously been used for the city’s Conservative and Liberal Party Clubs, and the famous Gladstone Library will become a fine dining and public events space. The stained glass windows in 112 Princes Street will be relocated and the highly ornate staircase in 109 Princes Street will be retained.

The buildings include 109-112 Princes Street and premises in Rose Street:

  • 109-111 Princes Street (Category ‘B’ Listed)
  • 112 Princes Street (the former Conservative Club) Category ‘B’ Listed,
  • 144-150 Rose Street Category ‘C’ Listed

In 2007, the council’s ‘String of Pearls’ initiative highlighted the fact that around 60% of the upper floors in Princes Street lay empty at that time. This is one way of ensuring that the upper floors are preserved for the future.

Debenhams, Princes Street, Edinburgh. Photo: Martin P. McAdam