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March 21, 2012

The power of buildings

What defines a community?  Some have a strong sense of their own history and cultural heritage. Others are more defined by a sense of physical place – whether that be the built or natural environment.  Some argue that a community is simply about the people who live there. Whatever the truth of the matter, there’s little doubt that local buildings with iconic status have a part to play – which suggests that Craigmillar can look forward to a timely boost.


The 1930s White House building in Craigmillar has been officially reopened after a year-long restoration project. 

Its decade-long derelict state became a symbol for the area’s overall decline. 

Now its renovation – co-ordinated by developers Parc contractors, architects and local groups – is being described as “a hugely symbolic and prominent statement that Craigmillar’s regeneration is well underway.” 

Parc bought the B-listed building in 2007 as the first step towards its plans to create a traditional high street with commercial developments on both sides. It was designed in 1936 by William Innes Thomson. 

The restoration was funded the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Regeneration Fund, supported by PARC and Historic Scotland. 

Local MSP Kenny MacAskill was guest of honour the official launch. He said: 

” We can rightly celebrate the newly refurbished White House, which has become an important symbol of the changing fortunes of Craigmillar. 

“This community is being transformed, with new housing developments, schools, open spaces and leisure facilities. But at the heart of any thriving community are the buildings that bring people together. And that is what the White House was – and now can be again thanks to this splendid restoration project.” 

The Community Alliance Trust‘s vision for the White House is as a “high street hub”, run by the community for the community. The vision includes setting up social enterprises to ensure that any money coming in to Craigmillar stays in Craigmillar. The White House will be the first and will include a professionally run coffee shop, meeting space for the community, an office for a partner community organisation, cinema evenings and an information centre aimed at keeping the community involved and up to date on issues affecting them.  A lease for the building is due to be signed in the next few months.

There is no shortage of ideas for new initiatives in which the community could be involved including taking over some Council buildings which will become available when the new East Edinburgh office opens within the next year. Another key factor aimed at making CAT as inclusive as possible is identifying other income to enable us to employ dedicated staff to ensure that CAT is seen as a strategic body equally important and having input to the regeneration strategy for this area.


The Community Alliance Trust (CAT) was set up by the Community Regeneration Forum (CRF) in 2010. It is a community development trust which has been formed to benefit the residents of Greater Craigmillar. It has its origins in the local neighbourhood associations, originally established to enable consultation on housing regeneration initiatives twenty years ago and which are now striving to build on this role to further the development of the area. It is a truly democratic organisation with a number of its directors appointed through the Community Regeneration Forum, the over-arching body for all the neighbourhood associations in east Edinburgh and hence the voice of the community.