It’s showdown time for two rival groups battling to breathe new life into Bradford’s landmark Odeon building.
Rival bidders Bradford One and Bradford Live, who both want to turn the former cinema into a live venue, officially handed over their detailed bids to Bradford Council yesterday.
Bradford Council, which owns the building, will now put both shortlisted plans through a rigorous testing process before making a final decision in November.
Members of Bradford One, which has plans for a glass-fronted live venue, staged an eye-catching stunt as they handed over their bid. Local arts group Hugh Jart had constructed a giant figure ‘one’ on wheels, painted in the group’s signature pink.
Board member Kate Wellham, who had organised the get-together, said the arts group had spent all night making the sculpture.
She said: “They have been really supportive of us. They create art for festivals all over the world – it is just one example of the talent we have got in Bradford.”
Bradford Live’s handover was a little more muted, with director Lee Craven visiting City Hall personally to present his plans.
His group wants to turn the Odeon into a large, commercially-run live music venue capable of attracting major artists.
Mr Craven said feedback on their plans had been overwhelmingly positive.
He said: “There is no doubt that a venue of this size – 4,000 capacity – has genuine appeal for today’s music industry. Bradford has always had the demand for live music, but not the right venue.
“Our plans for the Odeon would make Bradford a regular fixture on the national touring circuit; attracting big names to the city.”
He said they were in advanced discussions with an international operator, who couldn’t yet be identified, and said he was “cautiously optimistic” about their bid.
Gideon Seymour, chairman of Bradford One, said its alternative plan would create an “indoor version” of City Park capable of drawing visitors day and night.
He said live music venues were often completely closed during the day, but Bradford One’s plan was different.
He said: “What we want to do is open it up, so it is open seven days a week, with restaurants and cafe bars.
“We would be creating a public space, so it actually becomes a centre-point of the city centre – the indoor version, if you like, of City Park.”
He said, in time, the group hoped the venue would generate substantial profits, which would be reinvested in other cultural projects in Bradford.
And Mr Seymour said he was confident the £20 million project had a sound financial foundation. He said a site behind the building could be sold off for a 312-bed student accommodation block, with the money used to part-fund the renovation.
Earlier this year, both bids made it through an initial round of Council testing, where a third plan to turn the building into a pool and leisure complex fell.
To get through that stage, the groups had to score 51 per cent or above on a range of criteria.
This second stage has a higher 70 per cent threshold, and each plan will have to answer two key questions: is there a market for their proposal, and will it pay its way?
The plan, or plans, making it through are expected to be revealed in July. They will then be asked to submit even more detailed proposals before a final decision is taken by the Council's Executive in November.
Councillor David Green, leader of the Council, said: “I am delighted we have still got two active bids. The business cases will now be assessed and I hope that one or both of them proves to be deliverable and that we will be making a final decision later on this year.”
Bradford Chamber of Commerce has wished both bids well, saying bringing the site back into use would be a major boost for the city.
President Paul Mackie said: “This is a key site in the centre of Bradford – it’s quite astonishing that its neglect has lasted so long; so it’s great that these schemes will now be finally decided upon.
“To bring the site back into use will, of course, help with image, footfall and overall regeneration. It will offer more leisure facilities for local people as well as attract non-locals in, hopefully.
“We don’t back one bid over the other – we wish them both good luck.”
THE BRADFORD LIVE PLANS:
- Bradford Live is a group of consultants, architects and engineers led by Bradford businessman Lee Craven.
- It wants to turn the Odeon into a large commercially-run live music venue, which would be the third largest in Yorkshire after the arenas in Sheffield and Leeds.
- To fund the renovation, the group would use a mixture of public and private money, similar to funding models used for the Leeds Arena and York Barbican.
- Once completed, the venue would be run by a commercial operator.
- The capacity of the main auditorium would be around 3,500 seated or 4,000 with standing in the stalls. The exact number of seats is yet to be finalised.
THE BRADFORD ONE PLANS
- Bradford One is a community benefit society led by chairman Gideon Seymour, who is the director of Bradford arts development organisation Fabric.
- The group wants to turn the Odeon into a large music and events venue with restaurants, cafe bars and shops. The building would be given a triple-height glass facade.
- To fund the development, the group would bid for public grants. It would also sell off land behind the building for student accommodation to part-fund the work.
- Once completed, the anticipated profits of £1m a year would be reinvested into other arts and community projects in Bradford.
- The capacity of the main auditorium would be around 2,487 seated or 3,107 with standing in the stalls.