Plans to open a Leith Museum in Customs House took a step forwards this week after the council announced a deal with the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust.(SHBT)
The deal will see the SHBT gain entry to the building in April with the aim of developing the building as a ‘community hub.’ Parts of it could be opened up to the public within months.
The building was purchased by the council, for £650,000, from the National Museums of Scotland using money from the Common Good Fund.
It had been previously used as a store for housing part of the museum’s collections.
Once the council takes possession of the building, The SHBT will be given a long lease on the building ,and then they will lead on bringing the building back into use.
Proposals to establish a significant Leith Museum in the building have previously been costed at around £10m, although to date there is no indication so far of whether there is scope to fund a project of this scale.
Tender documentation seen by Greener Leith specifies that the “museum/heritage” space in the building should be at least 250 square metres – a size that may not match the aspirations of some locals – and that the museum should be ‘revenue neutral’ for the council.
It remains to be seen how much of the building the SHBT do offer up for use as a museum, and how much must be leased out to commercial occupiers to make the project stack up financially.
The charity suggests using other parts of the building as workshops, offices and meeting rooms, but admits that a fully fledged feasibility plan looking at future uses for the building remains on the to do list.
Chair of the SHBT Board of Trustees John Campbell, said: “Although we are a small charity, we have a strong track record in saving important buildings at risk for communities across Scotland and we are delighted now to be involved in securing a future for the Customs House.
“Our first priority will be to make some repairs to the building and spruce it up so that pretty soon members of the public will be able access it.
“Its various rooms will be available for use whilst we develop the capital project from feasibility study through to completion.
“This is a very exciting project that will deliver a vibrant mixed use hub for the benefit of the people of Leith and beyond.
“A key element will be the presentation of selected artefacts and interpretation displays to highlight the historic importance of Leith as the gateway to Edinburgh and Scotland. Other uses may include offices, workshops and public rooms for meetings and events.”
Photo: Ronnie Leask | CC | http://bit.ly/1mZemg1
Update on 31/3/2015: Following feedback from a member of a community group involved in the Customs House project who wishes to remain anonymous, the headline was changed from “Leith Museum could open in months,” to the current one, so that it is clearer that it could yet take some years for a fully fledged Leith Museum to open in the building.