THE White House in Craigmillar is set to open its doors to the community in a move symbolising the success of the area’s ongoing regeneration in the face of the recession.
The landmark 1930s art-deco building will be home to a high-quality coffee shop, with a fully qualified chef offering healthy food options, as well as function rooms, office space and meeting rooms available to groups and individuals.
Susan Carr, one of those spearheading the social enterprise project, said: “It’s part of a strategy to ensure Craigmillar starts to earn some money for itself and is not dependent on grants.”
In keeping with its healthy eating approach, the White House Kitchen, as it will be known, is not trying to rival the nearby fast-food outlets.
Ms Carr said: “There’s a chippy and a kebab shop along Niddrie Mains Road and we’re not competing in that market. We deliberately don’t have a deep-fat fryer.
“We don’t want to compete with businesses that are there already.
“Social enterprises are about competing, but not in a way that puts anyone else out of work.”
A £2 million renovation was completed in 2011 and publicly-owned development company Parc has just agreed the lease to Craigmillar’s community alliance trust. The coffee shop is due to open later this month.
Ms Carr said Craigmillar’s 15-year regeneration timetable had stalled a few years ago because of the recession, leaving the community wondering what Plan B was.
She said: “Plan A was market-led and profit-led, where the profits from selling the houses would build more new houses and facilities.
“When that slowed down and there were no profits and therefore no building, we went to the council and Parc, asking about Plan B. We got as far as Alex Neil, who was Communities Minister at the time.
“We said we wanted to be involved in decision-making, not just consulted. His suggestion was we set up a community development trust.”
The trust got £185,000 from the Climate Challenge Fund and set up a one-year project advising people how to save money and change energy suppliers. That gave way to a community thrift shop which is doing well. A new council office has 400 people working in the area.
Ms Carr said: “Craigmillar is much busier on the high street than ever before.”
Cafe for foodies
While the area around the White House has plenty to offer in the way of fast food, the new cafe at the revamped venue is setting out its stall as a heathy eating option for the area.
The aim is to avoid competing with existing businesses, and the kitchen will not have a deep-fat fryer, to help chefs focus on creating wholeseome, healthy food options. The menu for the new venue is expected to include options including home-made soup, home- made scones, lasagne and pulled pork sandwiches au jus. And to ensure they are using locally sourced ingredients there will even be fresh salads from the kitchen garden.
Off the menu, however, will be fish suppers, chips, kebabs and deep-fried Mars bars.