Edinburgh's biggest art complex still looking for new home despite temporary reprieve at current base

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Organisers of Edinburgh's biggest art complex say they are still looking for a new home despite a temporary reprieve from eviction granted by the collapse of plans for student housing in the nine-storey office block where they are currently based.

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Edinburgh Palette has been operating on a rolling lease at St Margaret's House on London Road at Meadowbank for around 13 years.

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There are over 250 studios let out to a wide range of artists and creatives. But they have been expecting to have to leave imminently since a deal for the sale of the building to developers was agreed in 2018.

Plans for student housing at St Margaret's House have fallen throughPlans for student housing at St Margaret's House have fallen through
Plans for student housing at St Margaret's House have fallen through

However the deal has now fallen through after the buyers failed to sign up a student housing operator.

Andrew Chainey, development manager of Edinburgh Palette, said: "We've always known our time in the building is finite and that's been the same from day one. We’ve never been under any illusions about that.

“That's why in the last few years we’ve been looking at other opportunities throughout Edinburgh and working with the council to try and source more long-term solution.”

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He said owners Caledonian Trust were planning to remarket the building. “It could extend the period we’re in there or something could happen very quickly. For us ever day is a bonus.”

Palette has plans to install up to 50 modular cabin units on a 1.7 acre council-owned site at Stanley Street, next to Portobello Golf Course, to serve as affordable studio space but it would only accommodate a fraction of the number currently in St Margaret‘s House.

"Stanley Street is progressing and there are a couple of other options we're looking at very closely at the moment,” said Mr Chainey. The new options are also likely to involve cabins which can be “upcycled” as studios.

When Palette St Margaret’s House

Mr Chainey said: "At the outset we had no idea how successful this project was going to be and we were planning on maybe being there just a year – we didn't really know.

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“We started out with only a space on one of the floors just to gauge what sort response there would be from prospective tenants and how the model might work.

“The first year or two was just establishing the project and looking to grow into the building.”

But by 2010 it had taken the lease on all floors and the place was humming with creative activity.

Mr Chainey said Caledonian Trust had been very supportive from day one. “I think it shows how the private and third sectors can work together.”

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There is now pressure for a masterplan to be agreed by the council, community and interested parties to guide the development of the north side of London Road, including St Margaret’s House and the corner site at Jock’s Lodge. One suggestion is a permanent home for Palette could be incorporated into the blueprint.

"We welcome all discussions,” said Mr Chainey. “We're realistic, but if it’s felt there would like to be a legacy or a continuation of St Margaret’s House it may appeal to developers if they feel there's a ready-made community element to any development that goes on.”

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