A vision to return Bradford’s former Odeon cinema to its former glory and create a 3,500-seat live music venue was warmly welcomed yesterday.
Local businessman Lee Craven unveiled his detailed plans and introduced the team of experts who have helped him in his ambitious project over the past two years.
Mr Craven, a director of family textile firm Jessgrove, based in Great Horton, wanted to find a modern, viable use for the building, which has been empty for a decade.
Dozens of people interested in the future of the 1930s building attended the launch event at the Midland Hotel.
They heard details of the professionally-backed plan, named Bradford Live, including:
* Estimates show the restoration of the building will cost between £15 million to £19m;
* there are no mid-sized venues in the area and Bradford is an ideal location to fill a gap in the market;
* it would not be in direct competition with smaller venues, such as St George’s Hall and the Alhambra;
* discussions are ongoing with international operators about running a live venue from the Odeon which could host between 150 and 200 live events a year;
* the timescale of the project, if it goes ahead, is expected to be around three years - a year to 18 months to finalise the design and to get the consents, and around an 18 month to two-year period for the conversion;
* it would be preferable for Bradford Council to own the building, but they would not be expecting the authority to provide any significant grant funding of its own towards the project.
Speaking after the presentation, Mark Nicholson, from Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, said: “We are very excited about these proposals. They are in line with what we have been campaigning for ten years.
“BORG has always said that Bradford needs a boost and that the refurbishment of the Odeon is the boost the city needs.”
Mr Craven told those gathered at the launch: “I always felt the key question was not we must save this building, but is there a viable end use.
“If the experts had come back and said no, that would have been it. But they said that if the original auditorium was restored, the sheer size of it would be attractive to operators. The next step for us is for our engineers to gain access to the building.”
He added that a restored Odeon, coupled with the City Park opposite, could transform the city centre of Bradford.
But he warned: “We don’t have the luxury of time or experimentation. We have one chance to get it right.”