The old and new towns of Edinburgh are to be preserved through a wide range of adaptive reuse projects. As the pandemic restrictions come to a close in the Scottish capital, city officials announce that redevelopment and conservation plans will be undertaken across the city to protect and reuse ‘at risk’ buildings. The “Buildings at risk” register has been maintained since 1990, but as of this year, only two sites are left at risk in Edinburgh; the rest have either been restored already, or have plans in place to redevelop them.
The Buildings at Risk Register is used to raise awareness of the regeneration of historic buildings through the promotion of their repair and reuse
Iain Anderson, deputy head of survey and recording at Historic Environment Scotland
As a UNESCO world heritage site, there is pressure on the city to maintain its heritage buildings in a sensitive way. In 2021, Liverpool’s dock district lost its status as a UNESCO world heritage site due to new developments. In Edinburgh however, the developments promise to respect the heritage of the buildings, and there are already successful examples of adaptive reuse in the capital.
Acheson House, Riddle’s Court, and Donaldson’s School for the Deaf have all been invested in over the past decade and repurposed for new tenants. Now, the India Buildings on Victoria Street will be redeveloped into a hotel, and the Old Royal High School will become a music school.
The list of places being redeveloped is extensive, and may come as a surprise given the economic downturn brought about by the pandemic. However, Deputy council leader Cammy Day sees these buildings as valuable assets to the city both financially and culturally:
“It’s […] a massive endorsement of the city’s economic buoyancy and resilience that, despite the economic recession and the current impacts of the Covid pandemic, that these developments remain viable”.
The redevelopment plans in Edinburgh are not museum focused, however. The majority of the plans will transform the historic buildings into housing, hotels, or offices. This is likely the key to the deals struck between the council and developers, as this will offer significant investment opportunities for external financers.