THE search for a contractor for the main work to transform Bradford's former Odeon building into a live music venue has begun - as it is revealed the venue's opening date has been delayed to 2022.

Bradford Live has begun the process to find a new contractor for the main phase of construction ahead of the iconic building turning 90 this month.

The project will transform the key city centre building into a 4,000 capacity live events venue, as well as providing multi-purpose conference and meeting spaces.

The building will be run by Birmingham-based NEC Group, which has made a 30-year commitment to operate it, bringing their expertise in live events, conferencing and catering to Bradford.

After the Odeon closed its doors in 2000, the building fell into disrepair. It was added to the Theatres at Risk register in 2008 before being removed earlier this year.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The New Victoria pictured in the 1930s shortly after it was built and before it became the OdeonThe New Victoria pictured in the 1930s shortly after it was built and before it became the Odeon

In 2014 Bradford Council approved a plan by Bradford Live, a not-for-profit social enterprise, to create a live music venue after inviting developers to submit commercially-viable ideas for the building. Planning permission was granted in March 2019.

Updated designs and timelines are set to be revealed later this year once the main contractor has been appointed. But the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the venue is now expected to open in 2022, rather than summer 2021.

Dan Boulger, the project’s mobilisation manager at the NEC Group, said: “Beginning the tender process to find a contractor for the next stage of construction marks an exciting phase in the project, and we look forward to the interest we receive which has already been very positive. Bradford Live continues to have the full backing and enthusiasm of the NEC Group, despite a challenging climate for live events currently.”

Lee Craven, founding director of Bradford Live, said: “As with many construction projects across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges which have led to some delays in our timelines. However, this time has allowed our design team to work without interruption on the detailed design. We have said from the beginning that the former Odeon is a complicated building with many surprises and much hidden heritage. We have had to balance these challenges with the needs of a modern performance venue, and I believe we have managed to do just that. We look forward to sharing the revised plans publicly in the near future.”

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw at Bradford Council said: “Bradford Live is an iconic project for the city of Bradford which is set to bring a wealth of new visitors to the city centre, boosting the economy and providing jobs and opportunities for the whole of our region. It continues to have the full support of Bradford Council and we look forward to seeing its progress over this next important phase of the project.”

The project has benefitted from significant investment to date, including a £357,500 investment from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, a £959,500 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and £4 million secured by the LEP from the Government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.