A hidden gem in Helensburgh could make the town a leading destination for fans of Charles Rennie Mackintosh under an ambitious new bid launched last week.

Bruce and Nicola Jamieson, from the Mackintosh Club in Sinclair Street, have registered a new community interest company (CIC) - in the hope they can secure the funding to buy the town's M&Co store.

The clothing retailer is closing down all of its stores - including the one in Helensburgh, which occupies the ground floor of a building which was designed by Mackintosh in the 1890s

The Jamiesons hope that if they can use the Mackintosh Club Renovation CIC to secure funding to buy the ground floor premises, the whole building could be turned into a multi-level destination for arts and crafts.

They said they envisage a living building over three levels showing off Mackintosh's first commission in 1894, and the best modern creativity Helensburgh has to offer.

Mr Jamieson said: "We have a long road in front of us, but we really feel this project is so unique.

"It could change Helensburgh's identity of itself - this could be a Mackintosh town."

Helensburgh Advertiser: 3D cutaway illustration of the full Mackintosh Club off Sinclair Street, Helensburgh3D cutaway illustration of the full Mackintosh Club off Sinclair Street, Helensburgh (Image: Mackintosh Club)

Helensburgh Community Council members were enthusastic in welcoming the early proposals, and the new project manager for the Mackintosh masterpiece at the nearby Hill House, Liz Davidson also expressed her enthusiasm.

She said when tour coaches go to the historic home, they can only take one at a time, so they could direct the second down to the new Mackintosh venue in Sinclair Street.

Originally built as a Conservative Club to launch the political career of Helensburgh's own Andrew Bonar Law, who would later briefly become prime minister, the buiding has three levels - and all three are being envisaged as part of a future renovation.

Mr Jamieson told the meeting: "As soon as M&Co announced it was closing down, people said, 'this is one for you'. We didn't have plans for this at all.

"We are catering to people from all over the world. The interest in the building is phenomenal.

"This was an incredible building. It's a really special building but it's falling to pieces.

"We have proved it's Mackintosh's first building and first art-nouveau building in the UK, and it's in Helensburgh."

READ MORE: M&Co announces plans to close all UK stores

Mackintosh, along with Margaret MacDonald, Francis MacDonald and Herbert McNair, collaborated together at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA). They were known as 'The Glasgow Four' and seen as significant to what is dubbed the Glasgow Style.

His Helensburgh building was described as "the most comfortable and artistic" club in Scotland when it was built.

It may have influenced the Cranston tearooms in Glasgow - and the CIC said a tearoom could be part of the Helensburgh project's future.

The billiard room in the Mackintosh Club is also the exact dimensions of part of Mackintosh's later winning submission for the art school's iconic Mackintosh Building.

The Four, the art school and the tearooms were "three great reasons why it's such an important building and has to be preserved", said Mr Jamieson.

Students from GSA helped survey the building and prepared a 100-page report on all the work needed to restore the structure, particularly urgent repair to the roof.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Interior of upper floor of Mackintosh Club, HelensburghInterior of upper floor of Mackintosh Club, Helensburgh (Image: Mackintosh Club)

Mr Jamieson said: "We see this as a living building. Imagine shop windows off the street with art on show, artists being able to work there or sell their goods, a tearoom and public space.

"The middle floor could be a Helensburgh community club. The top floor could remain an events space and cater to coaches.

A CIC can apply to the Scottish Government for a community buy-out. If successful, a building would have to be offered to the CIC first, at market value.

But a CIC also allows applications for grants and funding towards renovation.

Mr Jamieson said they were now looking for a strong panel of directors of all backgrounds to help take the CIC forward.

To get involved, contact Nicola Jamieson at Nicola@mackintosh.club.