The city’s derelict ABC Cinema could soon be knocked down if a deal goes ahead to sell the site.
Wakefield Council, which has overall ownership, plans to sell the freehold of the former cinema to the site’s current leasehold owner so it can be knocked down and redeveloped. And the authority said it was hopeful a deal could be negotiated in the coming months.
Coun Les Shaw, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “I am pleased that negotiations are moving forward, giving the city an exciting opportunity to see this part of Kirkgate finally transformed.
“The sale of the freehold would stipulate that the old ABC cinema must be demolished and that the site is made good, as well as ensuring that any development of the site is timely and adds value to the Kirkgate area. We are working hard to get the deal finalised by early summer.”
The venue, which opened in 1935, screened blockbuster films and held variety productions. But since its closure in 1997, it has fallen into a state of disrepair, and has attracted crime and anti-social behaviour.
City centre police Inspector Helen Brear said she was optimistic the cinema’s redevelopment could lead to a drop in crime in the area.
She said:“I wholeheartedly support efforts to renovate Kirkgate around the ABC cinema.
It is an area in which we have previously seen a higher proportion of crime. And we have seen that the transformation of other parts of the city has had a very positive impact on reducing crime rates and fear of crime.”
Plans for a retail and residential revival of the cinema have previously been given the green light.
But nothing has come to fruition and the building still sits empty and disused.
Elizabeth Murphy, chair of Business Improvement District, said: “While it holds nostalgic associations for many, in recent years it has become an eyesore, attracting anti-social behaviour.
“The BID welcomes this latest prospect and looks forward to the land becoming an asset to local businesses.”
Kevin Trickett, president of Wakefield Civic Society, added: “It’s good news that progress is finally being made.
“It would have been nice to see the cinema restored to all its Art Deco glory but that’s not going to happen and we have accepted that.
“Demolition is overdue and my interest now is to see what happens next on the site.”