The St James Quarter is in the centre of Edinburgh on the East End of Princes Street. The original shopping centre and government building were built in the sixties. The shopping centre closed in 2016 to be demolished and make way for the new shopping centre. Because of its central location its visual impact is huge. This page documents the old, brutalist St James Centre and adjacent New St Andrew's House, their demolition and the building of the New St James Quarter. A rather scathing review of the new St James Quarter appeared in the Guradian on 8 July 2021.

The Old St James Centre

I did enjoy wandering around the old St James Centre. It was a building of its time. One of the greatest bits was probably the bendy bridge connecting the shopping centre with the car park on the other side of Leith St.

pipes, etcSt James CenterSt James Centrebendy bridge

I quite liked the bits surrounding the St James Shopping Centre and New St Andrew's House: stairs, air conditioning units and strange spaces.

ENTRANCEemergency stairsinfrastructure on the roofold and new IIstepstilesnot quite derelict

The brutalist New St Andrew's House was completed in 1970 and occupied by the Scottish Office. It closed in the mid 90ies and remained empty due to concerns over the use of Asbestos in its construction. Edinburgh narrowly escaped Glasgow's fate of a motorway going through the city centre. Bits of it were built at the top of Leith Street.

St James Centreunder passSt James CentreSt James Centersafe from pigeonsconcrete shadow

Demolition of the Old

In 2016 the St James Centre closed except for the John Lewis store to allow the demolition of the shopping centre, the hotel and the New St Andrew's House.

men at workgoing... James
gaping holeSt JamesSt Jameshollow

The dinosaur machines moved in.

nearly goneprogressrestingdisappearance of St Jamesstop, go no furtherrare view of the New St Andrews Houseconcrete dinosaursrestingdrilling the foundations
Stairway to Nowheretearing down the oldLeith Stblue pissoirSt James Centre
St JamesSt JamesSt Jamesjaggedcracked

And the bendy bridge was demolished and scrapped.

for scrapbridge to nowherelast segment standing

Building of the New

Once the dinosaur machines were done the cranes moved in. For the following years they would dominate the skyline of Edinburgh.

raising the newcranesCongregation of Cranesbuilding site Edinburghcranescrane detail
growing replacementflock of cranesSt James Cranescity Iconscranesprofusion of cranescranes and chimney potsfilling the gap
beware the cranesSt James Cranes at NightDugald Stewart MonumentCranes and BalmoralEdinburgh at Nightready to gosunset

Some of the mobile cranes were absolutely huge.

crane removalLeith St Excitementbiggetting readysteel cablesupblockedcraneheavycrane bits delivery

Progress was made and the new St James Quarter grew.

progressgrowing pileever growingTemple to Consumptiontaking shapeinnardsever growingreduced crane populationshinenearing completionadjusting the twirlpush up

Eventually the last cranes were taken down.

crane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watchingcrane watching

The New St James Quarter

The new shopping area in the St James Quarter opened on 24 June 2021. I suspect the shops on Princes Street will struggle. But maybe that is a good thing and a chance to redevelop the city centre away from retail to something more people focused. I am sure visit on occasion to take some photos. The space is quite impressive and offers great views over Leith.

continuationmultistory shoppingLeith Viewwaiting in the sunbumpy swirlthe new normal