Drive to restore historic Edinburgh shopfronts

SHOPFRONTS close to the heart of the Capital could be restored to their original glory after new cash was awarded for conservation of the city's historic environment.

Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 11:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 11:10 am
Maxi's Cafe in Stockbridge was one recent beneficiary of an Edinburgh World Heritage grant to restore historic shopfronts. Picture: Neil Hanna

Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH), the charity responsible for conserving and promoting the Old and New Towns’ world heritage site, has been given a £2.6 million grant from Historic Environment Scotland’s City Heritage Trust programme.

The commitment is the biggest chunk of an £8.6m pot being shared out among Scotland’s seven cities over a three-year period.

EWH will use the money to offer £50,000 grants and further loans to tenement owners to carry out conservation projects and shop owners to restore their frontages.

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EWH director Adam Wilkinson said the shopfronts project would focus on key routes into the world heritage site such as South Bridge, Elm Row, Haymarket Terrace and West Maitland Street. He said a few facades had been done already, but the plan was to expand the programme. “There is evidence it improves footfall in these 
areas and to the shops as well, so it’s supporting businesses and supporting the local community and it’s something we want to see more of,” he said.

“We provide the grant to the owners and walk them through the process. It can be daunting to be faced with all the choices around conservation and restoration and specifying right materials. We have the expertise and the time to make sure it is all authentic and correct.”

Mr Wilkinson added: “It [the shopfront upgrade] can mean removing sheet glass and putting back the original design.”

But he made clear there was no compulsion about the scheme. “We only do it if shopkeepers want to. If they don’t want to, it’s rarely because of the appearance. It’s usually more about disruption to their business.”

Both the shopfronts 
programme and the drive on tenement repairs have the same financial arrangement. “The first £50,000 is a straight grant,” Mr Wilkinson said. “After that it’s repayable.”

Mr Wilkinson said all the shop projects would be different, but a typical revamp would cost between £25,000 and £50,000.

Tenement repairs might cost up to £200,000. Mr Wilkinson said: “When they sell the property, they pay the money back to us.”

EWH is looking at setting up a new service, giving advice and helping tenement owners to come together to ensure basic maintenance is carried out.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said she was confident the new funding would benefit local communities and the wider economy, providing skilled jobs and caring for the historic environment.