The massive former Scottish and Newcastle Brewery site a few minutes up the road from me, right next to the cinema Mel and I regularly go to, is being demolished at last – it has been empty for some time (brewing was once big business in Edinburgh, probably why it is such a real ale city, but now it is mostly gone – thankfully the much better Caledonian Brewery is still going strong. This area was popular for brewing because of the pure water from local wells, the so-called ‘charmed circle’ of wells). There have been plans to redevelop it for years and finally they seem to be making progress – the site is so big it goes across both sides of the main road; now one half is totally gone – where the buildings and cooling towers and tall walls were there is just fields of rubble. Quite odd to walk past this spot which was so built up before and now I can see clear across it to the area beyond. Not the first time it has been redeveloped in the last century though, as the old tenement where Sir Sean Connery was born was next to it, but was demolished long ago. In fact, he used to deliver milk around there as a young lad – these days when he comes back to the area it is to walk the red carpet at Film Festival launches; talk about change.
In such a built up area near the city centre there obviously isn’t a lot of opportunity to remake areas, so I’m keen to see them do something nice with such an enormous brownfield site. We’re promised a mix of business spots, leisure and new homes with much-needed open spaces – this part of town lacks some decent open areas because it is so heavily built up. It all ties in with the revamp of the nearby canal, which now has lots of barges on it (some for holidays, some folks living on them year round), new flats overlooking it and waterside restaurants and cafes and a redone towpath for walking and cycling on which Mel and I make use of a lot (beats walking by the busy main road and you can feed the ducks as well as grab some nice photos). Of course, it may end up being a mess as these things can be sometimes, but hopefully they make a good job of it since it is going to be a big part of my local environment (and probably boost the already inflated housing prices) – they’ve put up a website for this new area, which they are going to call Springside and a short video, which also takes in some of the history of the Fountainbridge area.
I wonder if it will actually look like this when done. Always interesting to see something in transition; few years back a major brewery, then empty buildings, now rubble and in a couple of years people will have their homes there – in fact, a lot of people; this isn’t just a couple of old buildings, its a big site and will change the nature of the area a lot. Right now it is just an idea of a place; I think I will enjoy it being translated into a real place – if any part of a city can be said to be truly real, since some of it is always in our impressions of it and our imagination and our memories.