A forgotten former tram depot for Edinburgh’s original tram system in Edinburgh is to be knocked down and replaced with old shipping containers for artists to work in.
Studios, retail units, workshop space and a social enterprise cafe will also be created when the vast shed in Leith is demolished 60 years after it was last used for the city’s original tram service.
Work is expected to begin later this year on the project, which is expected to provide a base for around 30 artists and help tackle a drastic shortage of studio space for artists and “creative entrepreneurs.”
The vast site, which is hidden away off Leith Walk, will also play host to a new “street market” under a £1.3 million funding deal to breathe new life into the site.
It will be created from reconditioned wooden huts previously used at the city’s German Christmas market on The Mound, which have been in storage for several years.
The 10 sea containers will be brought into the site as soon as the old tram depot is demolished and are expected to be used until funding is found to create modern office buildings on the site, near the foot of Leith Walk.
The funding deal, which sees the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council plough in £750,000 and £530,000 respectively, will also see an “at risk” building facing onto Leith Walk become a new community and business hub.
Artists currently based in the building, which is run by arts organisation Out of the Blue, will be moving out into the reused shipping containers, while the office space will be upgraded for use by public sector bodies, voluntary organisations and small businesses.
Rob Hoon, manager of Our of the Blue, who converted a fomer drill hall on nearby Delmany Street into a hub for artists, said: “There is a huge demand for studio space in Edinburgh at the moment. We have got more than 900 people on our own waiting list at the moment.
“In the past a lot of artists who came out of college in Edinburgh would just go to Glasgow because they couldn’t find any space, but the city is changing and there is now incredible demand.”
Gavin Barrie, the council’s economic development convenor, said: “The business units and street market will create a real buzz on Leith Walk and will address the critical shortage of space for artists and other creative entrepreneurs in Edinburgh.
“The community hub will deliver vital services to people in Leith Walk and the wider Leith area, which is one of the most densely populated and fastest growing places in Scotland.”
Local government minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Leith Walk area will benefit from this injection of funding and the exciting plans look certain to support the regeneration of the area.”
Leith MSP Ben Macpherson said: “It is fantastic to see Out of the Blue receive the support they need to develop Leith Walk Studios and turn the entire area into a hub for the whole community. It is such a great location.”