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Housing charity reveals ambitious plans for fire-ravaged Kings Heath cinema and Gala Bingo Hall

Published: 1st November 2011 21:50

Ambitious plans have been revealed to create a new 'community hub' for Kings Heath on the site of the now derelict Kingsway cinema building.

If successful, the former cinema and Gala Bingo hall could be turned into a mix of performance venue, advice centre, community-run supermarket and accommodation for a wide range of groups and social enterprises.

Unveiling the plans to a meeting of Kings Heath Residents' Forum, consultant Adrian Spray admitted there were many hurdles before the dream could approach reality however.

He presented a long shopping list of potential community uses and was on the look out for further ideas before drawing up a report in the next few weeks.

'Reach the People' - a charity arm of the Trident Housing Association - were behind the plans, he said.

"They had been looking to develop a site in Kings Heath and the former Kingsway Cinema presented a fantastic opportunity," he said.

Trident, which is looking to vacate its current base in Erdington, would use the new venture as a place to deliver services to its own customers and provide a range of community services working with other organisations.

The many options include

  • a shopping mall of community-run retail outlets - a sort of social enterprise version of Selfridges
  • a community supermarket - perhaps run by local young people
  • a cinema and community theatre
  • community café bar - something unique and different to what is already on offer in Kings Heath town centre
  • a community college - a place for informal learning and a skills exchange
  • front-line service delivery for Trident housing association residents - although there are not a high proportion of these in the locality
  • a centre to provide benefits advice, care and support packages
  • serviced offices to provide start-up space for community enterprises and incubation for new local businesses

Fire at the Kingsway Cinema / Gala Bingo in Kings HeathAccording to Adrian Spray the plans had already started to take shape before the fire that destroyed much of the building - there had even been plans to hold an open day inside the old cinema. Reach the People had put in an offer to buy the building but that had been turned down by the owners. Any potential purchase was now delayed because of the added complication of insurance claims and the need to re-value the structure.

The charity had hoped it could get money from the Heritage Lottery because of the historic nature of the cinema. A £2.5m new building, just retaining the original façade, was now more likely.

This would be a totally new venture for Trident/Reach the People, which has no previous experience of a development on this scale - but they already have architects engaged and Price Waterhouse Coopers on board to help with the thorny issue of funding.

Adrian Spray said the Kings Heath proposal would need to be self-financing over a 25 year period and that proceeds from Trident's Erdington premises could be used to kick start the development.

Members of Kings Heath Residents' Forum were enthusiastic about the plans, while recognising there was still a great deal of work to do.

"It's fantastic someone's coming along and saying we want to build public infrastructure in your High Street," commented committee member Peter Bailey.

Previous stories

Historic Kings Heath cinema gutted in early morning blaze

Childhood dreams up in smoke as Kings Heath cinema burns

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At 18:03 on 2nd November 2011, rparkin commented:
This looks like a brilliant idea - absolutely perfect for the area. Good luck to all concerned, I hope the dream becomes a reality.
At 19:46 on 3rd November 2011, rparkin commented:

You need to log in before you can do that! It's only a quick registration process to join the AMA network and completely free.

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