Is this plan really the answer to Tron Kirk’s prayers? - Kevin Buckle

I tuned in with interest to the Edinburgh Council Finance and Resources Committee meeting on Thursday to hear the councillors discuss the possible plans for the Tron Kirk.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 7:00 am
The Tron in its arts market incarnation, pictured in 2018

First up was a lively discussion as three different football clubs vied to lease Bingham Park Pavilion, with all three being allowed to plead their case.

Over three hours in and finally it was the turn of the Tron. I had seen the recommendation was to lease the building to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust but had expected some discussion about the options, including the one recently featured in this paper brought forward by two of the businesses that had actually traded from the Tron in its original arts market incarnation.

Having read both statements of intent the SHBT plan seemed a lot like the failed Edinburgh World Heritage plan ultimately relying on grants in the future.

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Despite the fact we are now living in very different times the belief that SHBT would succeed where EWH failed seemed to rest solely on the fact they had once raised £6 million for the restoration of Riddle’s Court a merchant house in the Old Town.

The businessmen’s plan relies solely on the income from the Tron to completely restore the building while taking on a lease potentially over ten years and worth a million pounds in rent. SHBT were offering no rent and would take a management fee from income. They did offer an “open book” and to put surplus funds into the building.

The businessmen were not being optimistic as the figures actually stack up well. The Tron easily accommodates 20 stalls costing £50 a day so that is £350K-plus a year. Certainly enough to pay a six-figure rent, make a fair profit and still have enough left to cover the several million pounds needed for the building.

Initially both ideas involve having a market with SHBT promising to formulate a long-term plan while the market is in place. The businessmen’s plan is fully formed already.

When EWH took over they controversially gave the retail space to one business that already had shops in the Old Town rather than support the resident local artists. Another business was added some time later but it is worrying to hear that SHBT would go back to the EWH retailers, only promising to add others if necessary.

Unfortunately at the meeting council officers dismissed all other possibilities out of hand, leaving councillors with no real option but to back the lease to SHBT.

I should declare that one of the businessmen was the artist and good friend of Avalanche Gerry Gapinski, who I met at the Tron. If I was SHBT he would be the first person I would turn to for advice as I know from my time there no amount of experience prepares you for the challenges it presents.

If not the Tron’s loss may well be my gain as I hope to further involve Gerry in the plans for Waverley Mall.