JUST THE TICKET: Council Leader, Jim McMahon, celebrating the Odeon deal on the steps of the Old Town Hall with Shoab Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Business and Town Centres.
WHEN THE new Oldham cinema opens its doors in 2015 it will have been a decade that our borough has been ‘without reel’.
We’re now making great progress to address the lack of local flicks which, of course, started when the Roxy at Hollinwood showed its last film in August 2005.
Our latest boost in that mission was confirmation this week that Oldham Council and ODEON have now agreed an exciting deal to run the new facility t the Old Town Hall development.
Our vision to create a vibrant town centre has leisure and entertainment attractions at its heart and this project will blow the dust off a neglected but wonderful building and open it up again to a whole new generation.
We’ve been in discussions with Europe’s largest cinema operator for several months about these plans.
The Old Town Hall will be a landmark development that restores the Grade-II listed building as a ‘civic jewel’ – reusing and extending it to become a new family entertainment complex with an 805-seater cinema with seven screens, plus six restaurants and a branded café franchise.
In any regeneration scheme I’m always conscious about the need to preserve and respect our heritage assets and that’s why these plans are designed to sympathetically conserve as much of the existing building as possible.
The work will also bring the venue into the 21st century with a modern glazed ‘light box’ extension, and provide a new public square adjacent to it in Clegg Street which will feature restaurants and can play host to arts and cultural events.
The case for the cinema and redevelopment of the Old Town Hall is compelling. More than 91 per cent of 426 residents who attended an open day event voted to support this new use for the building.
The development will be funded through a mix of council-sponsored funds including borrowing repaid by tenants like Odeon and restaurants plus, of course, income from increased Business Rates.
The total price of the scheme will also be reduced by Government tax incentives designed to encourage historic buildings like this being brought back into use.
In September 2013 an independent Economic Impact Assessment reported that the scheme is expected to generate around £57m of GVA – ‘Gross Value Added’ – to the local economy over the first ten years. It will also create an estimated 238 jobs, which is why it is such a significant regeneration project by anyone’s measure.
ODEON is the largest cinema operator in the UK and is synonymous with great film experiences. From day one we were absolutely determined to get them on-board and bring them back to the borough. Their commitment to us is a huge vote of external confidence in our aspirations for the town centre.
Central to those plans is a recognition that a thriving town centre isn’t just about retail any more – it’s about a mix. It’s about providing other complementary uses that make it a place that people will want to spend time in.
That means we need to combine a wide range of high street retailers with varied markets, thriving independent businesses and a leisure offer – plus a range of cultural venues, attractions and events, new open public spaces and a more attractive environment.
By using the Old Town Hall’s historic building as its ‘shell’ we have a fantastic opportunity here to deliver a cinema that is in a unique venue and has a backdrop that will put it in a different class from the usual out-of-town retail parks. Signing up the cinema operator is a very important step in this project and now we can’t wait to get started on working with ODEON.
If you’ve been in the town centre recently you’ll probably already have noticed that the building itself is now about 80 per cent covered in scaffolding.
What you can’t see behind it are our contractors, Morgan Sindall, who are carrying out enabling works to allow a ‘drying out’ process to take place before restoration work begins.
The next steps will then see stonework, cleaning and repairs, the demolition of certain areas, roof replacement and internal support foundations.
During Spring a specially-designed hoarding featuring photographs of local people and their memories of the Old Town Hall will also be put in place.
The Old Town Hall has been a sad sight in recent years: a jewel that only said the wrong things about Oldham’s ambition as a place and for its people.
But as you can see we’re now well on the way with delivering this exciting project and I want to place on record my thanks to Oldham Council officers for working round the clock on the ODEON deal.
We all understand the importance of this. It’s not just about building a new cinema, it’s also about the confidence of our borough and the growing belief in the future we are defining for ourselves.
Thanks for listening,