THE listed auditorium of the former Odeon Cinema in Clerk Street could be preserved – but mothballed – under the latest proposals from its owners.
Duddingston House Properties says it has now abandoned the idea of turning the building into a hotel, which would have meant knocking down the Art Deco auditorium while restoring other parts of the building. The scheme was rejected by planners after a campaign by local people.
Now the firm says it is working on another option which would include a bar and student flats, with the auditorium saved but unused.
The company’s Bruce Hare said: “We are now looking at an option that would see the auditorium retained, with the front of the building on Clerk Street restored and brought back into use as licensed premises and with a new student accommodation development to the rear.
“While we are working up this option, the building is still for sale.”
Mr Hare said he had attracted companies interested in running a bar in the ground-floor foyer and first-floor cafe areas, and another interested in operating a block of around 90 student flats.
“We’ve got proposed interest to the front of the building and in student accommodation at the back but we don’t have an interest in the auditorium space. We’ve been looking at a number of different options. The auditorium would just be mothballed indefinitely,” he said.
The Odeon was bought by DHP nine years ago and closed shortly afterwards. The firm has put forward a range of proposals for the site, including postgraduate accommodation and an entertainment venue, but most met with obstacles or objections.
The hotel scheme was first floated in 2007, and planners later considered giving consent for it, subject to a legal agreement involving the company paying £20,000 towards transport infrastructure.
When DHP then tried to pay the £20,000 to the city council last January in the hope of moving ahead with the development, the cash was returned by the council, which said circumstances had changed.
In the interim, after lobbying by Historic Scotland, a Scottish Government reporter had ordered DHP to put the cinema back on the market to try to find a buyer that would restore the entire building. While several bidders came forward, none could raise the £2.5 million asking price.
A fresh application for the hotel scheme was rejected by city planners in June.
Mr Hare said: “The hotel plan is no longer an option. We are now pursuing an option that will see all the features identified by Historic Scotland retained in some form.”
He said he had been meeting city planners on a monthly basis and remained hopeful that the latest scheme would gain their approval. “The feedback from [city council development management manager] David Leslie has been very constructive. He understands the issues and we wouldn’t be suggesting anything unless we had the support of planning officers.”
However, he said he could not put a timescale on any development.
Save the Odeon campaigner Tom Pate said: “It’s significant progress – demolition is now off the agenda, leaving open a return to cinema use in future. But why wait? Cinema use is an option right now.”