Sites revealed for Chester’s theatre plans

Cheshire West & Chester Council is considering two sites for a new theatre for Chester.

On Wednesday 3 November members of the council's executive will be recommended to short list both, as a curtain call for the final selection and procurement process.

Manchester-based Locum Consulting has led a four month feasibility study on behalf of the council, examining over 20 different sites.

Locum advocates a medium scale theatre offering an 800-seat auditorium, capable of scaling down to 450 for smaller audience productions, plus a flexible studio theatre seating around 200.

Dependent on its chosen location, the council said the building could have the potential for cinema facilities and a restaurant, plus a theatre bar/café.

The following two sites will be discussed at the meeting:

  • Site option A – Council-owned Little Roodee car park, which is considered to add to the attractions of the riverfront and supports the development of the Lower Bridge Street and Castle area. The costs are estimated at around £50m, including around £11m for car parking
  • Site option B – Privately owned Odeon cinema, including 49 Northgate Street and Folliot House, now included within the parameters of the proposed Northgate Development. The council said it is a prominent location next to the main civic space on the boundary between the main shopping core and leisure area. The council said the feasibility study suggested the Odeon would provide an excellent fit with proposed improvements to the Cathedral Quarter and support the economy of Northgate Street and the city centre. Overall costing for the conversion of the Odeon, which currently has 1,680 seats and which could also include some cinema provision, is estimated at £38m

 Little Roodee site proposed for new Chester theatreThe council did not disclose detail of where funding is being sought for both options when contacted by Place.

A third site, Gorse Stacks, which is located at the end of Hoole Way and Frodsham Street, was said to be significantly behind and the executive is recommended not to pursue the option.

Cllr Richard Short, executive member for culture and recreation, said: "We have always contended that the city desperately needed an iconic theatre to fill a major gap in its cultural offer.

"We are about to take a major step towards both achieving that dream and also to providing a major boost to the city's economic regeneration."

The council said if the study recommendations are accepted, officers will produce detailed reports on both options, everything from funding and procurement strategies to traffic surveys, to aid members' deliberations.

Cheshire West & Chester also intends to engage the public and key stakeholders in development of the theatre's final design brief and programme.

Consultants also believe Chester would meet a national demand for larger conference facilities and they recommend a flexible "events venue" for 1,000 to 1,200 delegates that could also stage large concerts and exhibitions.

Your Comments

This just has to happen for Chester – the Odeon would be a perfect location for a new landmark destination in a city centre that is long on character and charm but desperately short of cultural attractions for visitors and residents.

By andy porter

I agree about Odeon location, it will make a fine addition to what is on offer at the Forum Studio Theatre old Chester Gateway.

By Theatre Goer

I agree the Odeon is the ideal position for this cultural attraction.

By Barbara

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