Money still the key to Odeon fate

First published in The Odeon by

Former US president Bill Clinton once famously said: “It’s the economy, stupid” – and that, of course, is the real reason why the redevelopment of the former Odeon site has gone back to the drawing board today after 12 wasted years.

When the building ceased to function as a cinema and was put up for sale on the open market, this newspaper called for it to be converted into a concert hall. The Council subsequently called in the consultants behind the hugely successful Sage arts centre, in Gateshead, to draw up a plan.

Try as they might, those experts could not find a way to make that work: there was no public funding available and the levels of audience required to make it a viable venue were simply unachievable and unsustainable.

There were no other bidders for the site so it was eventually bought for Bradford by Yorkshire Forward and a competition was launched to find a developer to retain some or all of the building. It was eventually won by Langtree Artisan who have simply failed to make the numbers stack up. For the HCA to expect them to do so in eight months in the worst recession since the 1930s was clearly unrealistic so anyone else trying to claim credit for the failure of the scheme is being disingenuous.

Where we go from here is up for grabs but those clamouring for the Odeon to be saved need to remember that it will apparently take millions for the building – or even just the towers – to be returned to a condition where it might have a long-term future.

And who, in the forseeable future, can find the money for that?

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