THEY were once a common sight on the street corners of New York and London, and an essential part of the day for city businessman wanting to look their best.
Now old-fashioned American shoe-shine booths are set to be created on the Royal Mile in an attempt to preserve some of the street’s red phone boxes.
Two of the iconic boxes will be transformed under proposals tabled by Steve Beeken of Brighton-based charitable trust Thinking Outside the Box.
The group aims to preserve defunct telephone boxes while raising funds for local causes. Edinburgh would be the first city in Scotland to be part of the newly-launched scheme if the plans are approved.
The trust has put forward four options for the boxes at 63-67 High Street. As well as the drop-in shoe-shine idea, the compact kiosks could also be used as an ice cream bar, mini souvenir shop or coffee takeaway.
In a statement submitted with the plans, Thinking Outside The Box said: “The concept of a public telephone box is now outdated as the majority of people own a mobile phone.
“The proposed new use maintains their iconic appearance but reinvents their use to suit the 21st century.”
Brighton architect Miles Broe, who has designed a removable cabinet to slot into the telephone box, said transforming the landmarks into new businesses would help ensure their preservation.
“There are hundreds of boxes needing maintenance and being targeted by vandals,” he said. “To have them occupied and running for business, they will be maintained and look right. So many city councils have been saying they have got to do something with these boxes. They are listed iconic red boxes which wouldn’t look any different.”
The proposals would see existing telephones and equipment removed, and there would be a rolling maintenance programme to refurbish the kiosks every two years.
The existing glass panels would be replaced with vandal-proof glazing for security and longevity of use. A proportion of takings from the new kiosks would be donated to local causes in Edinburgh.
Council planners have until May 12 to make a decision on the Royal Mile application.
RINGING THE CHANGES FOR GALLERIES AND LIBRARIES
The Royal Mile telephone boxes are eligible for BT’s Adopt a Kiosk programme, which allows charities and community groups to take over the running of the structures.
Communities across the UK have applied to take ownership of the boxes to protect them for future generations, paying just £1 for the transfer.
The project has inspired some novel uses for the kiosks.
In Portobello, a kiosk on the corner of Bellfield Street and High Street was turned into a micro art gallery.
The Community Heartbeat Trust has installed heart defibrillators in rural kiosks around the country.
And in Little Eaton, Derbyshire, the phone box was turned into a library.