The owner of the mothballed former Odeon cinema has offered to sell it to Bradford Council for the peppercorn price of £1.
Council chiefs are now considering the deal by the Homes and Communities Agency which comes with the additional sweetener of £100,000 of maintenance cash.
The HCA, which inherited the now mainly derelict 1930s city centre building from the Regional Development Agency just over a year ago, wants to complete any transfer by the end of next March, giving the Council fewer than five months to decide whether it wants to take on the building.
If the Council believes the liability will be too much to bear at a time of major cost-cutting throughout the authority, the HCA has indicated that it would look to try to sell the site on the open market.
Naz Parker, of the HCA, said it had spent £1.3 million on essential maintenance work and removing asbestos from the building since taking ownership 13 months ago.
This brings to a total of almost £7m of public money that the HCA and Yorkshire Forward have spent on acquiring the site and on maintenance and essential repair works, which it would be willing to write off in order to complete the transfer to the Council.
A formal offer has been made to the Council, along with the sum of £100,000 which the HCA had set aside for maintenance of the building for the next two years.
Regeneration bosses at the Council must now spend time assessing any potential liabilities associated with taking over the key site.
Council leader, Councillor David Green, said at a special meeting of the authority’s regeneration and economy committee yesterday where details of the offer emerged, that he was not against taking on ownership of the building in principle. The final decision will rest with the authority’s executive committee.
He added that alongside the discussion over ownership of the Odeon, he wanted to see a process agreed whereby interested groups could present their plans for the building which could be reviewed by Council experts.
These could then be discussed openly at a public committee and hopefully the authority could select a first and second choice out of those considered to be commercially viable.
“If there are schemes that stack up, hopefully the Council will be able to back them. If there are none that stack up we will need to look at plan B.”
He added that he could not guarantee that the Odeon would be saved if none of the restoration schemes panned out. But he added, this would at least give groups the opportunity to test out their restoration schemes.
The Council’s head of regeneration, Barra Mac Ruairi, told the committee that his department would have a lot of work to do in order to assess any potential liability in the authority taking ownership of the site “to ensure that we spend our Bradford pound very well”.
Mr Parker said that his organisation had completed essential repairs and health and safety work to the building which it estimated had bought the Odeon three more years of life.
In the future the roof structure would need further stabilisation and there was some dry rot in the building which would need attention too, he said.
Speaking after the meeting, Mark Nicholson, of the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, said they were pleased with the “tone and content” of the meeting, adding: “It’s a brand new page for the Odeon and as a group we are looking forward to seeing the building being given a fair chance.”
Last month, the HCA terminated a long-standing legal agreement with developer Langtree, which had wanted to demolish the 1930s building and build a £40 million New Victoria Place development of offices, a hotel and apartments.