Moves to make Kirkcaldy town centre fit for the 21st century have been given a £12,000 boost.
But how do you go about transforming a shopping area that’s been in decline for more than a decade?
That’s the question community organisation Love Oor Lang Toun will be asking local people.
They want to hear imaginative ideas to bring the empty shop buildings back into use and other proposals to attract people in to the town centre.
The old Marks and Spencer, BHS and Burtons buildings could be used for new things such as an indoor street food market, an office hot desking hub or even housing, says Love Oor Lang Toun chairman Danny Cepok.
These are just some of the ideas already mooted and the public will be asked for even more during an extensive consultation over the summer.
This time it’s different
Kirkcaldy town centre has been struggling for many years, with large chain stores closing and shoppers moving online or to out-of-town retail parks.
And over the last two decades, a number of grand schemes have been proposed before being ditched as private sector funding proved impossible to secure.
So the people of Kirkcaldy could be forgiven for thinking they’ve heard it all before.
But Mr Cepok says it’s different this time.
We don’t want just big plans. People in Kirkcaldy are a bit fed up with all that now.”
The group wants to look at smaller, realistic projects that fit in with how people live in the 21st century.
“These big shops are never coming back so we want to think a bit more imaginatively about what we can do with the buildings,” he said.
“What are the possibilities for these sites? We’re open minded about it and have no fixed ideas ourselves.”
And it’s not just the High Street.
Love Oor Lang Toun is also looking at future ideas for the Mercat and the old Postings Shopping Centre which has just lost its last two tenants.
“It’s also the waterfront,” said Mr Cepok.
“That’s the one thing people always want to talk to us about – that old thing about how Kirkcaldy has turned its back to the sea.
“Someone once said, if it’s a seaside town where are all the seaside attractions? We’re looking at all possibilities.”
Some of the ideas for Kirkcaldy town centre
Mr Cepok said a few examples had already been discussed.
“They’re things like could we have a nice, quality indoor market selling artisan goods and local products, things like fresh veg?
“Other ideas include having some sort of street food market in place – street food is great but Scottish weather isn’t that reliable so something indoors could be good.”
A kind of work hub has also been suggested as the way people work changes in response to Covid.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to travel back to the office full time but could we have a space where they could work in return for a small fee?” said Mr Cepok.
“And probably the big thing for all town centres now is the idea of town centre living.
“If we have people living in Kirkcaldy town centre, that’s a sure fire way of livening it up again.”
Kirkcaldy town centre next steps
Love Oor Lang Toun has been given £12,000 from a new Crown Estate Scotland fund designed to support community enterprises.
It will use the money to hire an architect to come up with possible designs for the empty High Street buildings.
After that, volunteers will take to the streets to speak to people who live in Kirkcaldy to get their views.
“We don’t want just big plans. People in Kirkcaldy are a bit fed up with all that now,” Mr Cepok said.
“We would welcome people coming in and saying they want to invest but we would rather talk about things that are are more realistic than grand plans that are just pie in the sky.”
How can people take part?
Love Oor Lang Toun want as many people as possible to get involved.
Once architects are appointed, information will be posted on the groups website and social media pages.
Wednesday Club is a chance for likeminded business people in Kirkcaldy to get together once a month to network and contribute to the future of Kirkcaldy.
Register for free now!https://t.co/pljQvRqeme
— Love Oor Lang Toun (@LoveOorLangToun) June 7, 2021
Those without access to social media won’t miss out however.
“There have been lots of online surveys in the past but we want to get out there and talk to people where they are,” he said.
“We hope they’ll come up with a few fun ideas and we’ll work on their thoughts for Kirkcaldy town centre.”
Fife Council is also drawing up an action plan for the High Street and says empty units should be viewed as opportunities rather than lost causes.
It will collaborate with Love Oor Lang Toun once the initial research is complete.