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Large Project

Former Marks and Spencer building

M&S (front elevation).jpg

The demise of major department stores is a key feature of all UK high streets. The impact of online shopping in particular has hit this store type dramatically. The demise of Woolworths, BHS, Debenhams, Littlewoods and many local department stores has left large gaps in the towns with limited options for occupation. In Kirkcaldy, Marks and Spencer decided to close their store in the centre of the High Street.  These can only be re-inhabited by a mix of smaller scale uses. This study examines the most appropriate possible uses of the multi-level building.

The former Marks and Spencer store is a large multi-level department store first opened in 1938. The design of the building is typical of this period with a simple art deco style facade with a central feature clock.

M&S (ground floor interior).jpg

The accommodation is set over four levels, and we’ll look at each of them:

- A main retail floor at ground level connecting through a split level to the Mercat Shopping Centre

- A large open first floor storage area with offices overlooking the High Street

- A smaller second floor limited to the office and staff spaces overlooking the street and

- A basement loading bay and storage area.


The building is primarily windowless with only the shopfront and upper floor offices benefitting from daylight. The flanks of the building do however adjoin both the pedestrian access to the Mercat Centre andonto Tolbooth Street. 

M&S (first floor interior).jpg

First floor storage area

M&S (second floor interior).jpg

Second floor office space

The Vision

Ground floor artisan market hall, food court, and family-friendly activities

The ground floor of this building is well known locally.  It was the split-level sales floor with a food hall, and a café on the upper level with access to The Mercat.  This floor was used by NHS Fife during the COVID 19 pandemic as an inoculation centre.

This floor provides space for a permanent artisan style marketplace, with a food court and some pop-up activities such as a 2-lane bowling alley or an indoor mini golf course. Other ideas presented by the public included a giant Monopoly Board or a board games section.

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The ground floor offers the option of a different form of selling. A new market street is formed connecting from the Mercat Centre through to the High Street.  A range of small-scale booths line the sides of the new space with freestanding market stalls set along the middle.  With the addition of food and drink spaces, and indoor leisure activities, this floor provides for a lively, energetic, destination hub in the centre of the High Street.

Revitalise upper floors

While the ground floor can be used for selling goods and family-friendly activities, the first floor creates an ideal opportunity for makers’ spaces.  This could include crafts, artists, creatives, jewellery, or even food or drink offerings such as an artisan bakery or small-scale brewing or distilling.  The floor loading can accommodate large equipment, and has a large roof space for ventilation and extraction.  Products made here could also be sold downstairs at the market, and some artisan makers may want to have visitors see them at work.  There is also the possibility of running classes.  This floor can also be used for co-working and meeting spaces, and there is office space to the front.

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The second floor was further office space and the canteen.  This demonstrates a further opportunity to have an enterprise area for support, training and co-working.

First floor makers' spaces

Second floor office accommodation

Kirkcaldy's own boutique cinema

An interesting and surprising area of this building was the basement.  An extensive area covering over 800 square metres, it housed the cold storage area, a large walk-in freezer, and a loading bay.  The north wall is adjacent to Tolbooth Street, and this gave our architect an idea – convert the basement into a small cinema.

M&S (cinema facade proposal).jpg

The entrance to this cinema would be in Tolbooth Street, using the existing façade of what was once the Kirkcaldy Free Church.  This would lead into a modern foyer, which could also be used as exhibition space.  The foyer would then lead down to a licensed food/bar area.  

There could be one or two 75-seater cinemas in boutique style with comfortable seats.

A small cinema for Kirkcaldy Town Centre was considered the most popular idea in the whole consultation process.  Local people felt that Kirkcaldy (the 7th biggest town in Scotland) deserved to have its own dedicated cinema with on-date first showings of major film releases.  They also wanted the full cinema experience with a food and drink service.  The cinema would be a significant boost to the night-time economy and create an additional destination experience to the M&S building.

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Proposals for this project

There are two charities interested in this building.  One wants to use the ground floor as artistic working and exhibition space, and the other has looked at the first floor as makers’ spaces linked to other projects around Kirkcaldy.  LOLT would be interested in using the office space as part of the Enterprise Hub idea. As yet, no firm decisions have been made.

Although the idea for the basement is to create a small cinema, there is some substantial and costly work that would need to be done.  Much of that would depend on what the future holds for the Marks & Spencers building over the long term.  

Consultation responses to this project

What local people said


  • Indoor artisan stalls and marketplace

  • Fresh local produce

  • Family-friendly entertainment, e.g. 

  • bowling alley, indoor mini-golf, soft play, giant monopoly

  • Encourage evening economy, cinema, themed bars


Ratings for this project

"What do you think of having a small cinema in the town centre?

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"What do you think of using the top two floors for workspaces and meeting spaces?

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Sentiment value for this project

(Sentiment Value measures the positivity of overall comments, where -3 is most negative and +3 is most positive)

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Some of the comments from the public

"A small cinema is so so so needed here. If it can be both affordable for families during the day with a boutique feel at night that would be spot on!"


"The indoor market area sounds very European, it’s probably the riskiest idea but I love your enthusiasm and hope it can work x"


"Think overall this is a great idea to boost entertainment and leisure and possibly include food outlets offering street food etc but I would prefer it if office/workspace areas were an absolute minimum." 

Next:  Extra Large Project

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