The month of August saw the annual transformation of Edinburgh city into a heaving, wonderful mass of festival-led celebrations. And nowhere is this cultural feeding frenzy more keenly felt than in the deepest heart of its historic city centre.
Now one of Edinburgh’s most exciting new districts, New Waverley stretches from the Royal Mile down to Waverley Station. At its heart is a new public square, Sibbald Walk that sits just off the Royal Mile behind the new Adagio Aparthotel. Along from Waverley station lie The Arches, a row of 19 renovated Victorian arches which now host an eclectic mix of shops, cafes, restaurants and curiosities.
This year, the new square hosted The Edinburgh Cocktail Festival, that brought together a myriad of pop-up cocktail bars, food stalls, live music and DJs. This followed hot on the heels of the Heverlee Festival at The Arches which celebrated all things Belgian – including food, beer and electronic music.
The Arches have also witnessed Freestival, the Fringe’s largest free festival as well as many one-off events, street markets and art projects. Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame unveiled a 10-metre illuminated art work in celebration of St Valentine’s Day, and just around the corner, on the Royal Mile, we unveiled the UK’s largest poem to celebrate National Poetry Day.
What makes New Waverley special, especially now, is that just two years ago it was virtually a no-go area, right in the heart of the city. The Arches were boarded up and used for industrial storage by the council. The roads and spaces now buzzing with The Arches and New Waverley’s three new hotels, or currently earmarked for new homes and offices, bore the remnants of the city’s old gas works and bus garage, which had remained for almost two decades as an ugly, unused development site.
The area during the Festival is brimming with visitors, the hotels are full and the cafes and restaurants are spilling out onto the pavements. In short, life in all its glory has returned to a part of the city which had been closed off for years. Boosting the buzz further, last month, the UK Government announced that almost 3,000 civil servants will form a new office hub at New Waverley, meaning that this influx of new life and vibrancy is here to stay.
This is all part of a long-term plan by Artisan Real Estate Investors, the investment partnership driving New Waverley, to create a genuine sense of place for its city centre regeneration projects, building exciting, sustainable and vibrant locations in which to live, work and visit.
Anyone now witnessing the sheer exuberance and excitement of The Arches and the whole of New Waverley in general, would realise that this sensitive development mix is exactly what our city centres need if they want to continue to be attractive destinations work, visit and live.