Three of the globe's leading hotel operators have been shortlisted to run what is expected to be a world-class property following the transformation of the old Royal High School in Edinburgh.
The former boys' school on Calton Hill, which originally opened in 1829, has remained empty since 1968 when the Royal High School moved to Barnton.
Originally designed by Thomas Hamilton, the property is one of Edinburgh's most distinctive landmarks. Four years ago, the City of Edinburgh Council, which owns the A listed building, granted Duddingston House Properties (DHP) a conditional ground lease for 125 years to develop the building as a luxury hotel.
Architect Gareth Hoskins is designing the hotel, which is being funded at a cost of £55m by a group of institutional investors led by and David Orr of the Urbanist Group, who was previously founder and chief executive of Mint Hotels, and DHP's Bruce Hare. Mint Hotels was sold in 2011 to private equity company the Blackstone Group, the major shareholder of Hilton Worldwide.
Orr, who was instrumental in introducing Harvey Nichols to Edinburgh, believes that the new hotel has the potential to do for tourism what the department store did for retailing in the city.
"What we are proposing to do is to add something truly special to the Edinburgh hotel market by bringing one of the best hotel operators in the world to the city," he said.
"This will not in any way diminish current hotel provision; indeed it will add another tier at the top which can only benefit all of the city's operators.
"But importantly, one of Edinburgh's architectural jewels in the crown will be sensitively restored and the public will have access to Hamilton's superb building for the first time."
According to Oxford Economics, when operational the hotel is likely to create 640 local jobs and contribute on average £27m annually to Edinburgh's GDP, while Scotland-wide basis the hotel could support an additional 100 jobs, through tourism, retail and leisure sectors, and contribute an around £32m in GDP to Scotland's economy annually.
DHP will submit a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) to the council in January 2015, which will be followed by three days of public consultations at the old Royal High School in February 2015.