New owners of Fife shopping centre reveal eight businesses set to move in
Kirkcaldy’s main shopping centre has new owners - and new businesses moving in.
The Mercat has changed hands, and the company in charge has set about making its mark.
Gatehouse Property Management has taken over the running of the centre.
The Glasgow based company already runs shopping centres in Cumbernauld, Castlemilk, Grangemouth as well as properties in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
It took over officially in May after the deal was concluded, and this week unveiled no fewer than eight new businesses - with more to come.
It is also planning to add events and giveaways in a bid to bring people back through the doors.
The Mercat has struggled badly in recent years with a number of retailers closing, and it has also been hit by the pandemic.
But it has also suffered through a lack of investment as Alasdair Irving, new centre manager, admitted: “It has been unloved for too long.”
This week he confirmed eight new businesses were moving in, including a new juice bar, furniture store, florist, a beautician, phone/PC repairs, and a charity retail and cafe.
Kirkcaldy community radio station, K107, is also set to fill one of the empty units.
The new owners are also launching a number of events to bring new life back to the mall.
These include a monthly craft market, and several comic con events, and they are also speaking to Fife Farmers’ Market with a view to bringing the event in from the Town Square.
A record fair is planned towards the end of the year along with a possible wedding fair and a Meerkat promotions where visitors can take photos of the character in shop windows and win prizes.
A strawberry give-away is planned to co-incide with the tennis championships at Wimbledon.
Added Mr Iriving: “We have more businesses still to be announced.
““We are looking for a better mix. We want to bring new faces in, and get some life back into the building - phase one is about getting people back into the centre, and getting them to come regularly.
“Once we do that then we start to target some of the national chains.”
The Mercat’s future could also include the leisure and recreation sector as it seeks a better blend with the contraction in retail.
The new owners are also looking at re-opening the walkway which led from the centre to the old swimming pool and on to the adjacent multi-storey car park.
It was a key access point, particularly for elderly and disabled shoppers, but has been closed for a significant period.
The Mercat first opened its doors in 1973, built at a cost of £1m, and billed by its original owners, Hammerson Group, as “one of the most up-to-date developments, not only in Scotland but in Britain.”
It was home to major names such as Mothercare and Woolworths as well as boasting a supermarket, but they have long since moved out.
In 2010, the then owners, City Site Estates unveiled ambitious expansion plans which promised of 850 jobs and a further 450 during the construction process.
As blueprints go, it was huge in scale.
The company proposed a glass front along the Esplanade with a hotel, expanded shopping centre with food court, cinema and leisure facilities.
The plan envisaged a new civic plaza, and a new multi-storey car park in Charlotte Street, while the one in Thistle Street was to be demolished.
The company produced a dazzling fly-through video which outlined a stunning transformation on the waterfront side of the building to something akin to the Omni Centre in Edinburgh.
It would have made the Mercat 50 per cent bigger than the Gyle Shopping Centre in Edinburgh - but CSE lost out in a head to head fight with the Invertiel development which saw the creation of Morrisons’ store.
The company departed the scene two years later after calling in the receivers.
In 2016, new management agents. LaSalle, acquired the old swimming pool from Fife Council for just £1, and, two years later, began demolition work.
The aim was to make space for a potential multiplex cinema, but it was unable to secure an operator, and, three years on, it remains boarded up and empty.
The site is likely to be put up for sale to a developer.