A campaign to bring the Victoria Theatre in Salford back into use has taken a step forward, after a viability study found it to be “one of the most significant cultural assets” in the city.
The grade II-listed building has remained unoccupied since it closed as a bingo hall in 2007 and is on the Theatres Trust list of “at risk” venues in the UK.
Funded by the Theatres Trust, the viability study stated that the theatre was of “national significance”.
The consultants who contributed to the study – from Colliers International, Foster Wilson Architects, IKS Consulting and Theatresearch – said: “The terracotta façade is fine and, once restored, would be a major adornment to the area.
“The building appears to be relatively unaltered since built, but it has unfortunately experienced neglect by its former owner and deterioration that needs urgent attention.
“The Victoria has some impressively unique differences from its counterparts in the city and across the UK, and it would be great to see it restored as a flexible multi-use events venue plus community hub.”
The consultants added that “it is unlikely that any other project could make such a positive contribution to regenerating and improving that part of Salford than restoration of the Victoria Theatre” and said the building “does not require major change to become useable again”.
According to the study, the operation could make a surplus of about £250,000 a year once established.
It is estimated that it would cost in the region of £6 million to acquire the venue and to restore it, including fixtures and fittings.
“There is no excuse for the building to be allowed to continue to deteriorate given its importance and potential for viable use. Demolition should not be considered an option,” the study states.
Salford Victoria Theatre Trust, a group dedicated to bringing the space back into use, has said the next step is a meeting on March 26 with the theatre owner and the council to discuss urgent roof repairs and plans to move forward.
Chair of the SVTT, Sam Kelly, said: “While it would be phenomenal to have the whole building restored to its original glory of an operational theatre, we hope to achieve the first two steps in a four-phase plan for the restoration.”
He said this would allow the building to operate as a vibrant community hub encompassing retail in the entrance, commercial office spaces in the saloon bar, as well as rehearsal and performance areas in the auditorium and stage sections.
Kelly added that there was also discussion around a museum or exhibition space in the basement.
Claire Appleby of the Theatres Trust said: “We are delighted that the viability study had determined a solution to securing the future of this beautiful theatre.
“The Victoria, which is currently vacant and in poor state of repair, is one of only 30 theatres throughout the UK that is included on our Theatres at Risk register.”