Edinburgh Roseburn Park: Years of work by volunteers transfom derelict toilet block into community cafe

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Friends of Roseburn Park celebrate achievement with ‘completion party’

A disused toilet block in an Edinburgh park has been transformed into a community café, thanks to years of hard work by a determined band of volunteers.

The Friends of Roseburn Park have spent the past 11 years putting together plans and raising funds to bring the derelict building back into use. And on Sunday, July 2, it will be launched to the public at a “completion party”. The transformed building in Roseburn Park, next to Murrayfield Stadium, will house a community café and a toilet for public use. The Rosebean café will open for business later in the summer, operated by the Dower House Café team from St Margaret’s Park.

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The building dates back to 1903 an was designed as the park’s pavilion by the office of the eminent City Architect at the time, Robert Morham. Later it was used as a bothy for the park keepers and was converted for additional use as public toilets in 1936. It has been closed since 1982. By the time the Friends took it over the roof was beginning to collapse, there were roots crawling everywhere inside and trees sprouting from the roof. It would have cost the council £12,000 just to demolish it, so they were happy to let it to the Friends at a peppercorn rent.

The former toilet block after its transformation. The new Rosebean Cafe will open later in the summer.The former toilet block after its transformation. The new Rosebean Cafe will open later in the summer.
The former toilet block after its transformation. The new Rosebean Cafe will open later in the summer.

The trustees and members of the Friends group have given their skills, expertise and time on a voluntary basis. They had support from architectural designer Craig Proudfoot of One Foot Square and technical input by Paul Harding, while the work was carried out by All Aspects Building & Construction Scotland Limited under the directorship of James Purves.

A “Buy a brick” scheme raised a total of £8,864 within four months. Contributions were secured from Baillie Gifford Investments (£1,000), Virgin Money Lounge (£2,000) and the Evelyn Drysdale Trust (£3,500). And the city council gave £66,000 after funding was proposed by the then Lord Provost, Frank Ross.

More than 3,000 leaflets have been delivered to homes in the area, promoting the completion party and asking what residents want next. The party from 1pm until 4pm on Sunday, will have burgers and free bucks fizz, a bouncy castle, a Jubilee plaque unveiling, stalls, games, a raffle a screening of a film about the conversion work. And local ward councillor Euan Davidson will cut a ribbon to mark the launch.

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He said: “After such a difficult period for Roseburn’s small businesses and community as a whole, it is fantastic to see this amazing project come to fruition.It is a great example of partnership working between the council, community organisations and small business which I would like to see much more of. The café represents a fantastic addition to the offering at Roseburn Park which is already one of the best in the city.”

Friends group chair Jim McDonaugh said the building had been an eyesore and refurbishment was “exactly what our community and park visitors have been waiting for”. He said: “It has not been a straightforward project, but working with experienced cafe managers we have come up with a design that gives 30 square metres of floor space as well as a spacious public toilet, kitchen and storage.”

Ex-Lord Provost and former ward councillor Frank Ross said: “Converting the old toilet block into a café for the whole community to enjoy is a great idea. It will help to support local jobs and volunteering opportunities, while providing a warm and accessible space for local people to meet up. The conversion has the backing of local residents and I was delighted to secure the council funding to allow it to proceed. Income from the cafe will help to support other projects led by the Friends of Roseburn Park to improve the overall amenity and quality of the Park.”