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Blaze hits part-redeveloped landmark in Leeds city centre

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A huge fire has caused extensive damage to a grade-II listed former cinema and nightclub in Leeds which being redeveloped by DLG Architects

The Majestic Cinema, which was built in 1921 and boasted a huge  21m-wide domed ceiling, had been empty since 2006. However the first phase of a long-awaited regeneration project to convert the city centre landmark into a new ‘leisure destination’ had already completed.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the alarm had been raised at around 7pm last night (30 September), and that 75 firefighters had dealt with the blaze at its peak.

Assistant chief officer Dave Walton said fire had engulfed the structure’s domed roof and had taken more than four hours to bring under control.

“Although the building is extensively damaged, it is still standing and we are hopeful that this grade II-listed building can be restored to its former glory,’ he said.

DLG partner Julian Monaghan said the practice’s first phase of work on the cinema (see AJ 13.04.11) had seen the building’s terracotta façade refurbished, its windows replaced and its roof secured.

He said a second phase of work was to have been tailored to the requirements of future tenants who were being secured by developer Rushbond.

Monaghan said it was clear that much of the structure’s interior would have been badly damaged, but he was hopeful that some features – such as its staircases – would be salvageable.

‘The roof has gone - the dome was only made of plaster and canvas,’ he said.

‘The difficulty will be in deciding whether reinstatement is the right thing.’

Rushbond director of real estate Mark Finch said the firm was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the fire and pledged to work with local authorities as the cause of the blaze was investigated. 

‘We hope to progress with repairing the damage as soon as practically possible and will provide a more detailed update as soon as we have a clearer understanding of what’s happened and have fully assessed the extent of the damage,’ he said.

Simon Warren, a senior lecturer in architecture at Leeds Beckett University, said the damage to the building was ‘particularly sad’ following the recent renovation work.

‘At least this terrible occurrence might market the property to a far wider audience,’ he said.

‘It could be a great market, educational or performance space until a long-term occupant comes along.’

Consultant architectural engineer Garry Palmer said the Majestic was a perfect structure for its corner location, close to the main Leeds railway station, and needed to be preserved.

‘One of the great things about it was its really large span roof - bigger than St Pauls - and the façade was Marmo terracotta, which was made down the road in Burmantofts,’ he said.

‘[That company] also made the façade for Michelin House in London.’

Leeds-based architect Edward Park agreed the building’s internal features would be difficult to restore - particularly its dome and a prominent frieze. 

Designed by Pascal J Steinlet, the Majestic showed films from 1922 until the late 1960s when it became a bingo club.

In the 1990s it became the ‘Majestyk’ nightclub, which operated until 2006.


Previous story (AJ 13.04.2011)

DLG to overhaul landmark Leeds nightclub

[First look + plans] Work is to start this month on DLG Architects’ revamp of the abandoned Majestic nightclub in Leeds city centre

The listed 1920s landmark and former cinema in City Square has been empty since 2006 when the nightclub shut its doors.

Bought by developer Rushbond last year (2010), the building boasts a 21m-wide domed roof and will be converted into a ‘new leisure destination’.

The scheme could re-open before the end of the year.

Julian Monaghan Partner at DLG Architects said: ‘We are delighted to secure for Rushbond a planning consent on such a significant building which sits at a key visitor gateway to the city centre.  The development plans will only compliment the existing attraction of City Square, supporting a sustainable future for this landmark building with new uses.’

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