THEY’VE sold houses for a pound, offered shops for a quid and now the city council is to flog the old ABC cinema in Lime Street for princely 100 pennies.
Neptune Developments will pay just £1 for a 250-year lease for what was once one of Britain’s most stunning picture palaces, paving the way for an £11m project to transform the building into an “international music venue”. There is even talk of a TV studio with windows looking out over St George's Hall.
Mayor Joe Anderson’s cabinet will sign off the deal this Friday, handing the keys to the one-time Forum cinema to Neptune, the company behind the recent demolition of another piece of cinematic history, the Futurist.
A report from Nick Kavanagh, the council’s director for Regeneration and Employment Services, sets the scene for the transformation of one of Liverpool’s key gateways.
“Following a protracted legal challenge (the battle to save the Futurist), the redevelopment of the eastern terrace of Lime Street has now commenced on site with the development of a major mixed use retail, dining, hotel, and student accommodation scheme, critical to the enhancement of the area adjacent to Liverpool Lime Street Railway Station, and the promotion of Liverpool as an international city. This project is being delivered by Neptune Developments Limited and funded by Curlew Student Trust.
“The next major phase of Lime Street regeneration is now coming forward with the refurbishment and re-opening of the former ABC cinema building on the corner of Lime Street as a major new music and live entertainment venue for the city.”
The report adds a planning application is due to be submitted shortly, with an aim of giving the city a venue of "international standing", that will see the former cinema converted to hold crowds of up to 1,500 for live performances in its famous auditorium, with complementary ancillary uses.
“The demolition of the derelict properties and the start of construction of the new retail, dining, hotel and student accommodation has already had a positive impact on investment interest in the surrounding area,” it adds.
According to the report, "two potential, well-established, high profile end users to anchor the completed scheme have been identified and the city council is supportive of the unique proposition of both, for the re-use and refurbishment of this historic building. The identity of the prospective end users is currently commercially confidential. Proposals also include a TV studio overlooking Lime Street Station and St George’s Hall."
The Forum was previously transferred to the city council for £1 by the government’s property arm.
PRETTY AS A PICTURE
The ABC Cinema is Grade II listed. It rounds the corner of Lime Street and is one of the first historic buildings, still standing, that visitors see when leaving Lime Street Station.
ABC acquired the building in 1930, known as The Forum, it opened a year later to become one of the finest cinemas of the era.
The six storey exterior was designed by A. E. Shannon and its sleek portland stone has very little decoration other than motifs over the entrance. Despite this, the building remains a very distinct feature on Lime Street. The building is listed for its grand interior, which was later subdivided, which is said to remain one of designer William R. Glen's best cinemas.