An ambitious plan to continue the ongoing regeneration at the east end of Kirkcaldy’s High Street and transform it into a world heritage site that can support the local economy is well under way.
Members of the Adam Smith Global Foundation are looking to develop the Merchants’ Quarter by creating an iconic shopping and tourism destination for townsfolk and visitors.
The first phase of the long-term project is the creation of an Enterprise Hub in the unit – formerly occupied by Italian restaurant Made in Naples – which has lain empty for a number of years.
At the end of last year, Kirkcaldy area committee approved £145,000 in funding to kickstart the redesign of the premises.
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And since then, work has been going onbehind the scenes to transform the 2600 sq ft building into a skills development and enterprise space.
The aim is to provide a range of support and practical space for new and young local business star- ups, all under one roof, offering local food and drink products and artisan crafts.
Flexible trading space for up to 30 small independent businesses will be provided giving them a chance to showcase their products and help make the leap from ‘home to high street’ should they want to.
The hub, which will be known as Enlightenments, House of Adam Smith, will also aid the development of 100 trainees each year into Fife’s hospitality, leisure and retail sectors.
Fife Council’s employability team, Fife College and Business Gateway will be on hand to provide on-site support to help the start-ups grow and thrive, through training and mentoring programmes, with a view to taking on other vacant units, not only within the Merchants’ Quarter but in other parts of the town.
Enlightenments will have two anchor tenants to support it – a vibrant cafe bistro offering a selection of locally sourced food and drink and a deli bar.
Marilyn Livingstone, chief executive of the Adam Smith Global Foundation, said the intention is that once operational, the centre will act as a catalyst within the Merchants’ Quarter for a boost to both the day and night-time economies, with pop-up restaurants one way of targetting evening custom.
She said: “We have been restoring a long-term vacant, Grade B listed building within Kirkcaldy’s Merchants Quarter.
“The work has included putting on a new roof and adding in skylights because the rooms were very dark.
“There was also a lot of dry rot and rising damp so we had to take it right back to the struts and put in cabling and wi-fi.
“The colour scheme we went for is sand and sea, in keeping with the harbour area, and we are looking to add some quotes by Adam Smith on the walls inside.”
Michael Levack, chairman of the Adam Smith Global Foundation, said: “We have the building warrant in place so it’s now a case of putting in the cosmetics – fitting out the interior, getting the plaster on the walls, sorting out the ventilation, plumbing and electrics, which we hope to do over the next two or three weeks.
“When you come in the front door there will be the cafe bistro and the deli, then the flexible space for the independent businesses with rooms at the back for kitchen preparation, storage space, a manager’s office and the toilets.”
Marilyn continued: “We have carried out extensive community engagement and market research to put plans in place for Enlightenments – it will provide the Merchants’ Quarter with much needed social and economic regeneration.
“The hub will act as an employability centre that provides support and pathways to lead individuals into positive career destinations, offering a second chance to those who need it.”
Mrs Livingstone said there will be many benefits for Kirkcaldy through the new project and stressed that the enterprise hub is not there to take business away from existing High Street retailers.
“Enlightenments aims to support 100 people each year and the initiative is part of Kirkcaldy Ambitions Partnership’s wider vision to help sustain the economic and social regeneration of Kirkcaldy,” she said. “We are not in competition with shops in the High Street. We want to complement what is already being offered here and we want to support local businesses in the town and increase the footfall.”
She added: “Enlightenments will help employers to overcome skills gaps, create opportunities for trainees and incubate start-up businesses which will eventually grow into a premises of their own.
“Above all, we are honouring Adam Smith’s legacy and helping to preserve Kirkcaldy’s history and heritage.”
And this is how it might work...
What will the building look like when it is open?
One direct comparison is with Why Not? which sits in the heart of North Berwick’s High Street.
It took a former supermarket which had been empty for a long time, and turned it into a hub for a range of businesses and established a first class cafe.
It was founded by creatives Jenny Potter and Adam Elder who wanted a regular place to sell their products.
They got to gether with a group of people with a similar outlook, and created Why Not?
It is now home to a huge range of different businesses – 25 shops selling everything from fruit and veg to crafts and art.
Since opening in 2013, it is estimated it has generated £4m for the local economy.