Edinburgh Palette set for temporary shipping container base

UNDER-threat city arts hub Edinburgh Palette is set to build a temporary base made from upcycled shipping containers on the site of a former building yard in Portobello, it has emerged.

Thursday, 8th March 2018, 7:18 am
Updated Thursday, 8th March 2018, 7:22 am
Eddie McVitie is caretaker at St Margaret's House. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Project bosses have secured a six-month lease of the one-and-a-half acre patch of land next to Portobello Golf Course on Stanley Street and aim to create a number of studio spaces for artisans in around 20 converted units on a rent-free basis.

In return, it is hoped some of the project’s creative talent will help to improve the site before it goes on the open market later this year. It is also hoped the new hub will prove popular enough with locals to remain in the area, though bosses remain tight-lipped over a potential bid to create a more permanent facility.

Initial work to clear the area, which is around the size of a football pitch, has already begun, while plans to create a public courtyard complete with seating areas are also set to be considered.

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The containers – purchased by the hub shortly before a deal to sell their current base at St Margaret’s House was agreed in February – were initially proposed to create additional studio space in the car park.

But the news that owners Caledonian Trust had sold the former government office block to property developers Drum Group as part of a £15 million deal quickly put an end to those plans. Edinburgh Palette took over the lease of the building in 2008, converting the dilapidated former office into a flourishing arts colony over the next ten years.

Chief executive Dale Gibson said the hub was hoping to have a similar impact in Portobello as they had when they arrived at the building in Meadowbank a decade ago.

He said: “As we have already proven with St Margaret’s House, we can be excellent tenants and we have shown a commitment to improving the site in the near future.

“We are still in the very early stages of development. However, we do have our own plans for this site.

“Hopefully we can put those into action soon and bring some kind of benefit to the local area.”

The Drum Group development will see the former government records office – now home to over 200 studios and workspaces – converted into a hotel, student accommodation and affordable housing as well as local community facilities.

Current occupants of the building include a radio station, a theatre, a disability charity and a judo club, all of whom are set to be looking for new premises when Edinburgh Palette leaves the office block next year.

It is also understood 
Edinburgh Napier University and the Biscuit Factory arts centre in Leith have been in contact with the project to offer their assistance.

A council spokesman said: “This land is due to be placed on the open market but in the meantime we have given Edinburgh Palette a six-month lease to help them with their storage in the short term.”

He added: “This is on a rent-free basis in return for Edinburgh Palette carrying out site improvements including repairs to the boundary fence.”