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Then there were two: finalists revealed in Bradford Odeon contest

Audacious plans to turn Bradford’s empty Odeon cinema into a swimming pool have been withdrawn, leaving just two teams still vying to regenerate the landmark

Earlier this year Rance Booth Smith with Turley Associates and Rex Procter Partners revealed plans to transform turning the former 1930s cinema into a public pool and indoor running track as part of its ambitious £30 million ‘City Reflections’ vision.

But the team has now pulled out of the race, with its spokesman Allan Booth, director of Rance Booth Smith Architects, telling the local press: ‘We have been delighted by the highly favourable press and public response to our proposal. [But] we’ve now had more detailed discussions, including with the council who were unable to commit to the Odeon for its city centre swimming pool, and as a result we are withdrawing from the process.’

The move leaves a pair of similar expressions of interests on the table - both of which want to convert the Renaissance revival building, which closed as a cinema in 2000, into a live performance space.

Hackney Empire-mastermind Tim Ronalds Architects wants to turn the landmark into a 4,000-seat music venue and has teamed up with local businessman Lee Craven under the ‘Bradford Live’ banner

The other proposal comes from the Bradford One team featuring local firm Halliday Clark Architects which wants to transform the Odeon into a ‘multipurpose cultural venue and centre for creativity and enterprise’.

Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford Council, said he was ‘delighted’ that there were ‘two viable proposals that could now go forward to the next stage.

He added: ‘It’s promising for the future of the former Odeon building.’

Gideon Seymour explains the Bradford One plans:

‘What we offer the city is a focal point, an exciting new cultural venue in the heart of the city centre, next to City Park. At its heart will be a refurbished auditorium, restored to its original size and with a capacity that places it in the right place in the north of England’s touring circuit for live music and other entertainment. The exact size of the auditorium will be determined by the next phase which will include a detailed market analysis and could be anywhere between 1500 and 4000. 

‘Around this new space will be café bars, restaurants and retail units that can both service people attending events in the auditorium and local people looking for refreshment and a unique view of the city centre. It will also include a smaller venue (capacity 300-350) run in partnership with Bradford College that will host smaller music gigs, theatre, comedy etc. 

‘To the rear a new build will provide a mixture of grade-A office space and creative production facilities, connected to the College and helping to attract creative companies from across the UK.’

‘As it is our intention to retain as much of the existing building as possible, we’re limited to some extent in how high we can place ‘design’ on our agenda. But of course we will be trying to create a venue that engages and excites local people and visitors alike.  So, in terms of any criticism about how ‘safe’ our plans are, I would ask people to judge them when they are a little more developed. At the moment we are simply trying to convince the Council that our plans are financially viable and sustainable. 

‘[Our plans] are precisely what Bradford needs. Leeds Arena is a large venue that serves the entire Leeds City Region and is likely to attract the large touring acts. We are clearly not trying to compete in this market. However, we are informed that at around the 1800 to 2000 capacity Bradford does not possess a venue capable of attracting touring bands. While St George’s Hall does provide a venue of this size, it is not popular with promoters for a variety of reasons.

‘Our aim is to create a something that breathes new life into a much-loved old building, creates a buzz in Bradford city centre, reflects the spirit of City Park and provides employment and a much needed stimulus to the city centre economy.

‘At the heart of our plans is community ownership, on behalf of the people of Bradford, though of course the completed scheme would be professionally operated. To date more than 400 people have joined Bradford One Limited as members with more joining every day, giving them a chance to have a direct say in the future of their building.’

Lee Craven explains the Bradford Live plans:

‘The key issue about the conversion is the viability of the project. We cannot expect any ongoing public subsidy to keep the building open: it has to earn its keep, which means it has to be run on a commercial basis by an established and experienced operator.

‘Large amounts of money will be needed to fund the conversion work. Tim Ronalds has always argued that a scheme that takes the building back to its original built form, in terms of basic structure, is the most cost effective solution; and fortuitously, this basic form comprises the original very large auditorium space, which from a commercial point of view is the most attractive form in any case.

‘The building offers a unique backdrop to the City Park, with the space between the towers useable for a large LED screen or projection, thus animating the public space, but without overpowering the building.

‘[With regard to the plans being branded ‘safe’] I’m not quite sure what is meant by that word. It is risky for the building to be used in a significantly different way to what was originally intended.  We’re trying to keep alterations to the main fabric of the building to a minimum. But the architecture of the building, we feel, speaks for itself, and if any one building can come to symbolise Bradford this is the one.

‘With regard to Bradford needing another venue, our proposal does not pitch the venue against The Alhambra - which of course is a theatre - and rather than threatening St George’s, it would allow this Victorian venue to concentrate on its strengths, such as its excellent natural acoustic.  At the moment, St George’s is trying to do too much and accommodate shows - mainly amplified pop and rock shows - that it is not suited for.  Its capacity is limited and its seating comfort well below modern standards. 

‘More and more acts are bypassing the venue and Bradford as a whole loses out. The Odeon would meet that need for a larger capacity venue, and allow St George’s to refocus. Bradford Live has done some initial work, in fact, on how St George’s could and should be reworked, if the Odeon project goes ahead.’

‘With regard to the Leeds Arena, it has a capacity of 13,500 and thus the Odeon fits well - 3,500 fully seated and 4,000 with stalls standing - into the space between this and the smaller venues, such as St George’s with its 1,500 capacity and the Leeds O2 academy with space for 2,300. This ‘mid-size’ venue would nevertheless be the third largest auditorium in Yorkshire and the sixth largest in the North of England (after the arenas), and thus have commercial appeal.’

 

Previous story (AJ 04.02.14)

Revealed: bold visions to renew Bradford’s Odeon

Rance Booth Smith, Tim Ronalds and Halliday Clark throw ambitious designs into the pot to overhaul the city’s 1930 Renaissance revival cinema

Bradford Council has received three formal bids from teams vying to regenerate the city’s abandoned Odeon cinema.

The most audacious vision for the empty 1930 landmark, which was almost flattened to make way for a Carey Jones Architects-designed office development, comes from Saltaire-based Rance Booth Smith Architects.

The practice, working with Turley Associates and Rex Procter & Partners, has proposed turning the former cinema into a swimming pool as a part of an ambitious £30 million ‘City Reflections’ vision, which includes a 160m indoor running track.

Meanwhile, Hackney Empire-mastermind Tim Ronalds Architects has teamed up with local businessman Lee Craven under the ‘Bradford Live’ banner in a bid to convert the building into a 4,000-seat music venue.

The third proposal has come from the Bradford One team featuring local firm Halliday Clark Architects which wants to transform the Odeon into a ‘multipurpose cultural venue and centre for creativity and enterprise’.

Bradford Council leader, councillor David Green, said: ‘We will now look at these proposals and determine which of them meet the qualification of retaining all or as much as possible of the building; make a positive contribution to the vitality of the City Centre and can be delivered within the next five years.’

‘Applicants will then need to submit more detailed proposals including designs, costs and a business plan.’

Those progressing to a second stage will be announced in March.

CareyJones' abandoned Bradford Odeon plans

CareyJones’ abandoned Bradford Odeon plans

Previous story (AJ 20.12.12)

Rival Bradford Odeon plans revealed

Tim Ronalds Architects has unveiled alternative plans to revive Bradford’s abandoned 1930s Odeon cinema

The £19 million scheme to convert the derelict venue into a 3,500 music venue is the second speculative proposal to come forward for the site after controversial plans drawn up by CareyJones, which would have seen the landmark demolished, were scrapped in September (AJ 21.09.2012).

Community group Bradford One - an early frontrunner to take over the semi-derelict plot - has already laid its cards on the table with plans by locally based practice Halliday Clark to convert the city centre cinema into a performing arts institute (read more here).

Tim Ronald’s new concept for the unlisted, William Illingworth-designed building has the backing of Lee Craven, a Bradford textile manufacturer, who wants to find a ‘viable future’ for the cinema which has been empty since closing in 2000.

Practice found Tim Ronalds told the AJ: ‘Craven is in discussion with several commercial venue operators. The capital funding will rely on a combination of private and public sources: ‘prudential’ borrowing against operating revenue, and government and European grants. It does not rely on any funding from Bradford City Council.

Projects now need to be lean, commercial and self-sufficient

‘The days of projects reliant on revenue grant funding are past. Projects now need to be lean, commercial and self-sufficient.’ 

He added: ‘Our scheme keeps the building as it is - it does not propose total restoration or to convert the building into something else. Its form, with its fan shape and sloping floor is very well suited to a modern music venue.

‘Craven is is a serious player. Behind his quiet manner he is very purposeful and he has good judgement. We think he will make it happen.’

Recent history of the Bradford Odeon

Summer 2006
CareyJones beats Studio Egret West and Dyer in the developer-led contest to overhaul the former cinema n the heart of Will Alsop’s ambitious city-centre masterplan. A start date of spring 2007 is pencilled in.

September 2009
Bradford councillors narrowly vote in favour of CareyJones’ £35 million New Victoria Place project – the Leeds-based practice’s fourth design for the cinema site – which would have housed offices, a 100-bed hotel, bars, cafés and community leisure space around a central square. The approved scheme is a third smaller than previous proposals.

April 2012
Newly elected Respect MP George Galloway appeals to architects and structural engineers to help retain 1930s landmark due to be replaced by Carey Jones scheme. The MP for Bradford West, demands the much-delayed plans to knock down the much-loved Odeon building are abandoned.

September 2012
David Green, leader of Bradford Council, tells the BBC there is ‘a blank sheet of paper’ for new plans following the decision by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the building’s owner, to tear up the development agreement with developers Langtree Artisan. The HCA has since offered to sell the building to the city council for £1.

Previous story (AJ 21.09.12)

‘Blank canvas’ for Bradford Odeon as controversial plans scrapped

New plans are being sought for Bradford’s Odeon cinema site after controversial plans to demolish the much-loved landmark were scrapped yesterday

David Green, leader of Bradford Council, told the BBC there was ‘a blank sheet of paper’ for new plans following the decision by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the building’s owner, to tear up the development agreement with developers Langtree Artisan.

The now–rotting 1930s landmark was due to be flattened to make way for a £35 million commercial scheme by the now defunct northern office of Carey Jones – a contentious development that finally secured planning in 2009, three years after the firm won the design contest to overhaul the city-centre plot (AJ 15.08.2006). 

However due to continuing uncertainty about the future of the proposed project and the failure by Langtree Artisan to sign the section 106 agreement the HCA terminated the deal and said it would now be looking at ‘other means of securing a commercially viable outcome for the site that meets the regeneration objectives of the Council and the people of Bradford’.

It is understood Langtree Artisan wanted more time to market the scheme to potential occupants and was unwilling to signed the section 106 agreement which would have forced the developer to flatten the city centre building within eight months even if it was unable to start building its replacment (see full statement attached).

David Curtis, the HCA’s executive director for the North East, Yorkshire and The Humber, said: ‘Since assuming ownership for the building a year ago, we’ve been working hard to look after the building, remove potentially fatal asbestos and resolve the complex legal issues surrounding the plans for its future.

‘We know the Bradford public has been frustrated at the uncertainty surrounding the building – and we’ve been frustrated too. When it was clear that the developer wasn’t prepared to meet the obligation to commence with the New Victoria Scheme we decided to terminate the agreement.

‘We haven’t taken this decision lightly and it won’t be a simple task to resolve the building’s future.’

The move has been welcomed by local campaign groups which have been battling to save the building from demolition since the Odeon’s closure in 2000. It is also good news for Shipley-based practice Halliday Clark Architects which has been working on alternative plans for a new Bradford Institute of Performing Arts for the site for the last two years.

The rival plan would retain large chunks of the building, inclduing the iconic towers, and would house office space and potential a home for Bradford’s library which is currently closed.

Practice co-founder Adam Clark said: ’It has been a waiting game for us but now there is now frantic activity going on. David Green is fully aware of what we have done and are doing.’

‘The previous proposals were not appropriate for the site, in either scale or design.’

Halliday Clark Architects'alternative plans for a new Bradford Institute of Performing Arts for the abandoned Odeon building

Earlier this year George Galloway pledged as part of his election campaign to try to save and restore the ‘iconic’ cinema and called its current boarded-up state a ‘disgrace’ (see AJ 05.04.2012).

Speaking to the AJ after his Respect party win, Galloway said: ‘I’m keen to find any solution that will save whatever can still be saved of the Odeon. I’d very much appreciate [the] assistance of architects, lawyers and structural engineers to unpick this mess and start putting things right.’

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