Issue 206
Winter 2018/19


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Nov 21, 2018

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A fresh Palette in Portobello

Artist's impression of how the new container/cabin project could look

IT'S PASTURES new for Edinburgh Palette, the umbrella arts charity currently based at St Margarets's House in Meadowbank. After ten years of calling it home, this thriving independent arts complex, home to a diverse range of creative individuals, businesses, crafters and community organisations, was facing an uncertain future after landlords sold its base to developers Drum Property Group for a reputed £15million.

A new site has been found and the plans are ambitious. The project is to be based in Stanley Street, Portobello, Edinburgh occupying a former small council depot that hadn't been operational for several years, before becoming a semi-industrial site.

Edinburgh Palette are now leasing the property from City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) and are planning to develop the site as a container/cabin park.

This is planned to have around 60 units accommodating business start-ups, artist studios, local organisations/clubs and some public/voluntary services. In addition there is an existing metal storage shed on site which the Palette are proposing to convert for performance and theatre space, along with space for a modular project and a warehouse for events/hirable space.

Andrew Chainey, Development Manager at Edinburgh Palette explains how the venture came about.

"Edinburgh Palette has been on the lookout for brownfield land for some time in order to create a container cabin project. We approached City of Edinburgh Council about the availability of land and were forwarded the particulars for 19 Stanley Street. The site was initially secured under a 6 month licence, during which time we implemented a schedule of landscaping, waste removal, container storage, tidy up and preparation of the land.

"Toward the end of this tenure, we submitted a proposal for the lease of the site in line with the marketing particulars and thankfully our bid was successful. The lease is initially for five years with a view to extending the agreement in order to establish a long-term, sustainable project. We are grateful to the Council for their advice and guidance during the tendering process.

"If all goes to plan, the project will begin accepting our first tenants in Summer 2019. We are planning to install around 70 - 80 studio units to complement the warehouse and other facilities, such as a small café.

"There will likely be a small programme of events in the run up to an official opening in order to engage the local community and utilise the site to its full potential in the meantime.

"Edinburgh Palette is already registering notices of interest from tenants currently based at St Margaret's House and those local to the locality of Portobello/Duddingston.

"Our focus is therefore Edinburgh North-east, however we attract tenants and visitors to our facilities from far and wide. So far, there is a lot of interest and positive feedback on our plans for the area. We've been heartened by words of support from local politicians, councillors and the NHS".

Regarding funding, Andrew Chainey explains: "Edinburgh Palette has always been a self-sustainable organisation with, to date, zero grants or funding. All income generated from studio lets is re-invested back into the upkeep, running and improvement of facilities. However, in addition to our income from St Margaret's House and 525 Ferry Road, we are looking at all options to secure additional investment and funding, so I would not rule out adapting our model in the near future."

In addition to Stanley St. in Portobello, the Palette has also secured additional premises at 525 Ferry Road in the Crewe Toll area of Edinburgh. Previously used by the banking sector, the premises comprises of 110,000 sq ft, numerous studios and light, bright working spaces. Tenants from St Margaret's House are currently making the transition to the new building.

Stephen Oswald, a Trustee of Edinburgh Palette comments: "It's early days, but the premises in Ferry Road, previously Edinburgh's largest vacant office building are attracting a lot of interest with our first major tenant EVOC (Council for Voluntary Service for the City of Edinburgh) now resident there, while Stanley Street currently remains in the development stage."

Oswald went on: "Edinburgh Palette's vision for Stanley Street is to deliver a micro container/cabin village in the heart of Portobello/Duddingston. A hub for creatives, health and well-being groups, service providers, social enterprises and small start-ups.

"This would represent a significant step in Edinburgh Palette's development as an organisation. We are proposing a mix of single and stacked double height units. Our design concept is to blend in with the natural surroundings of Stanley Street, promote environmental and sustainable working practices and offer services, a meeting point and affordable studio provision for a number of existing St Margaret's House tenants and residents/organisations in the surrounding area.

"We have discussed our proposals with the planners and immediate residential neighbours – we have taken on board comments and we are committed to becoming a positive part of the this community. We have received letters of support from residents and NHS Lothian."

Oswald concludes: "Edinburgh Palette's overall ethos is to create positive working environments with like-minded people from a broad range of professions, promote a more informal yet professional approach to business, ultimately, with a belief that affordable, flexible working/exhibition/performance/studio/community space is needed and an essential socio-economic driver for Edinburgh's future ability to remain a great city to live, work and visit."

With a mixture of pragmatic planning, determination and vision, it seems that from small beginings in a derelict building ten years ago, Edinburgh Palette's future is set to go from strength to strength.

FRANCES ANDERSON

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