Defunct department store to flagship community hub

Community assets Natural & Built Environment
20 February 2024

Huntly Development Trust: A new future for a prominent heritage building

Elaine Gibb

Number 30. the Square. Photo Huntly Development Trust

Some of our ‘environment’ grants support community-led heritage projects where buildings and heritage features that are important to local people are saved, secured and repurposed for the future. This example tells the story of one such building saved by and for the community in Huntly.

Key learnings:

  • Many rural towns are affected by economic change and decline – Huntly in Aberdeenshire is one such town.
  • Community ownership gives people the chance to address this in ways that makes sense for local people and needs.
  • Multi-purpose local hubs offer great potential for re-energising places.
  • Understanding what is needed in the area, what the community wants and how different interest groups will benefit is core to getting this building’s vision and offer right.

In recent years, Huntly, a market town in rural Aberdeenshire, has seen its role as a traditional rural service centre eroded, with the historic town centre experiencing rapid decline.

Local charity, Huntly Development Trust (HDT), is tackling this challenge head on. The latest of its ‘place-saving’ initiatives involves the transformation of a large vacant and dilapidated building at the very heart of the town.

The Trust acquired the former department store – now known as Number. 30, The Square – in 2019, and when it re-opens in early 2024, it will help to promote the town centre as a destination for visitors and locals, providing a much-needed boost for the area’s economy.

Refurbished and refitted as a multi-purpose, fully accessible, community hub, the building will operate as a social enterprise, with a focus on delivering community development and learning opportunities alongside a range of high-quality leisure, entertainment, retail and business facilities.

Care has been taken to preserve the heritage features of the listed building alongside the installation of new technology to reduce the building’s carbon footprint via air source heating and cooling, solar panels and extensive insulation.

An ambitious vision informed by local need

Recognising the need for action to revitalise their town, local residents had already prepared a Huntly Town Strategy that set out how they wanted to be more in the driving seat to secure their future. This gave the impetus for HDT to raise funds to buy this prominent local building and also informed the vision for how it could meet a range of local needs.

The state-of-the-art facility now boasts a flexible café, exhibition space and cinema; designed with families in mind and creating training opportunities for young people looking to develop their employability skills.

A youth-led innovation space will run in partnership with the local secondary school, providing a creative space away from the classroom where pupils can perform, record, exhibit, build projects and engage with local entrepreneurs. Also on offer is a ground floor retail facility, co-working facilities for freelancers, start-ups and small enterprises and a green travel hub with e-bikes and a heritage and visitor information centre.

Number 30. Ready to roll!
Huntly Development Trust

The Foundation got involved at the end of 2022 as the project moved into the final phase. At that time unexpected cost increases threated to significantly delay completion. But, with some budget savings, a final fundraising push and our ‘last brick’ grant, HDT was able to get back on track with the final works needed to get the building open and earning its keep.

Already there is a sense of it being a catalyst for further town centre regeneration. Three other vacant town centre buildings are currently being renovated under new ownership, and we’ve heard that what is happening with No. 30 was an influencing factor.” Carolyn Powell, Town Centre Manager, Huntly Development Trust.


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