The former shopping center in Kirkcaldy is to be demolished to make way for a large housing estate that could house hundreds of people in the town centre.
And it could be the catalyst to attract more investors and developers to transform the heart of Lang Toun.
The first major step came last week when councilors gave the green light to support redevelopment after reaching a provisional agreement with owner Tahir Ali who bought it for £320,000.
He renamed it Kirkcaldy Center and set out to revive its fortunes as a shopping centre, but the consequences of the lockdown saw it stand empty. It was recently boarded up and bricked up after being searched repeatedly.
Five school pupils moved out as major work begins to create more space
Talks with the local authority have been ongoing for some time to sort out the council’s long-term lease of the car park above the old Tesco, and the future of the building.
In step one, it will be demolished. Stage two will see the empty site offered to a developer – and that Ali and the council hope will lead to a complete transformation of the landscape with up to 300 flats built, linked by green walkways designed to encourage pedestrian movement to and from High Street and with landscaped public spaces.
To get to this stage, Ali has had to buy up a number of properties over the past two years, including the buildings that house New Look and the former Debenhams – both of which operate under Hill Street and will be directly affected by the demolition.
He said: “No one could have predicted how radically the world would change within a year of buying The Postings in 2019.
“Although we had a number of exciting deals in the pipeline with an independent supermarket chain and state-of-the-art cinema operation in the former Tesco unit, the pandemic brought these plans to an abrupt end.
“Rethinking the future of the center made us rethink the site with a new approach.
“Covid taught me the need to remain dynamic and flexible with property projects, and that agility, together with the support of Fife Council and local councillors, has enabled us to radically rethink the proposal.”
He hopes the development will spark further investment as investors take a fresh look at the town centre.
He said: “Together with ongoing development along the picturesque Esplanade and Merchants Quarter in Kirkcaldy town centre, our redevelopment in the heart of Kirkcaldy should help attract other investors to develop their own plans for restaurants, more national chains, cinemas, hotels and other potential .development that will help revitalize and renew the town center and attract more people back to the area as a place to live, work and play.”
The ambitious plans have been hailed as a game-changing moment.
Councilor Alistair Cameron, who has worked with Ali since he arrived in the town three-and-a-half years ago, welcomed the development.
“On the back of this I’m sure we’ll get more interest in the High Street from investors, and that’s what we want,” he said.
“It tells investors that the city is alive and kicking, and a really positive place that the tops have come to.” He also paid tribute to the officers – including Ken Gourlay, Ronnie Hair and Michael O’Gorman – who have worked for months to help bring the deal to fruition.
Cllr Cameron added: “We have a lot of waterside development and the Adam Smith Theatre, but we need something on the High Street to hang our hats on and this gives us that opportunity.”
Mr Ali hopes things will move quickly – work could begin early next year to demolish the 40-year-old shopping center that once buzzed with activity.
He has worked closely with Greg Limb of Ryden on the regeneration program for over two years.
Ryden has advised on the best way forward for the project and managed interest already expressed in the redevelopment proposals.
Councilor Ian Cameron, who chairs the Kirkcaldy Area Committee, welcomed the news.
He said: “The investment in the secondments makes financial sense for Fife Council, but it also says a few things about the city.
“It tells local people that we are serious about our town center strategy to improve the city’s aesthetics and be a more attractive place to visit, work and live.
“Although the site becomes a public space it will improve the area, but with the right housing development the increase in footfall will go a long way to meeting the deficit created when Tesco left Postings.”
Councilor Altany Craik, spokesperson for finance, economy and strategic planning, announced the deal to demolish the shopping centre: “This is fantastic news for Kirkcaldy. The shopping center is now 40 years old and has declined in recent years.
“Despite the Kirkcaldy Center being bought over in 2019, a rebranding and efforts to market the vacant units, the remaining owners have left, and the center is now completely vacant and has been closed by the owner.
“By demolishing and clearing this site it presents a fantastic opportunity for redevelopment which could provide a very welcome boost to the local economy.
“It also complements the rest of the regeneration work going on in the city center and helps reduce the number of derelict buildings in the city.
“I look forward to seeing this great place come back to life.”
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