A tour inside Bradford’s former Odeon building, which is on the cusp of an estimated £19m renovation if businessman Lee Craven gets his way, reveals an “epic scale space” ideally suited to become the “Brixton Academy of the North”, according to the architect hoping to help transform it.
London-based architect Tim Ronalds will be spending a lot of time inside the disused building over the coming weeks as he finalises his planning blueprint to create a 4,000 capacity venue for live music, sport, comedy and theatre.
On a tour with The Yorkshire Post, Mr Ronalds said he was confident in the conversion plans, which will reveal decorative plasterwork, glass and wood, as old auditoria floors are removed.
During previous visits, the vast building was riddled with damp and debris but remedial works have ensured it is now dry.
“Each time I visit I think it’s more fantastic. As I arrived today and saw the building, I thought ‘how on earth could anybody have thought of knocking it down’.”
Mr Ronalds says the project is “very doable”.
“It’s a very well built building in not a bad condition. It’s in better condition than it looks. There is some water damage from a leaking roof but most of it looks pretty sound.”
He compares the ambitious project to another former ‘super cinema’ venue, the 02 Brixton Academy.
And the aim in Bradford is to have the same or similar acts to the London venue such as Lily Allen, Snow Patrol, The Hives, and comedians including Jimmy Carr.
Mr Ronalds is confident that Bradford man Lee Craven can see through his dream of transforming the former cinema.
“One of the reasons this is going to happen is that Lee is a very good client with good judgment. He picks very good people to work with and people trust him. He is a good man and capable.”
Mr Craven leads the not-for-profit Bradford Live company and has put in over £100,000 of his own money, which he has gifted to the project and won’t see a return on.
He is working hard to ensure the final bid for council support is presented to the authority before the end of the year. He has to convince councillors that the finances for the project are sound and that the venue can be a commercial success. If he can’t convince them, demolition has not been ruled out.
Mr Craven sees the proposed venue’s equivalents as Manchester Apollo or the Brixton Academy.
“At the moment, there is not enough ‘pull’ to get people into the centre of Bradford. There is not enough to give the city centre a buzz. This could be the ‘game changer’ like the Brixton Academy was.”
Mark Nicholson, of campaign group Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, said he was “delighted” with the progress of the project.
“We have been campaigning for 10 years for this very moment. What Lee and his team are proposing is exactly what we were hoping for 10 years ago and what the public has been telling us for 10 years.
“We had a lot of belief, even when it looked like all was lost. I am delighted because this is the answer to all our prayers. The indications are that everybody - from the council and Lee’s team - want this to happen.”
A council decision is expected later this year.