Businessman Simon Rigby today unveiled plans to transform Preston’s Guild Hall into a top-class modern attraction.
Mr Rigby’s company The Villa et al is teaming up with UCLan and The Lowry in Salford to transform the Guild Hall in Preston into an entertainment, educational and conference centre with an adjoining four-star hotel.
And the businessman hopes that a fourth partner will also join in the bid.
In January it was revealed that the Guild Hall was included on a list of buildings that could be closed or demolished following Government cuts.
Preston City Council carried out a “soft market” test on the possible disposal of the Guild Hall.
Mr Rigby’s ambition is to create a world-class venue for Preston and the North West.
Plans include a new education facility for the teaching of performing arts by UCLan, an integrated food court, and the staging of world-class shows.
Plans also include the development of a 120-room hotel on land adjacent to the Guild Hall which would be connected via an elevated walkway. Mr Rigby was the man behind the ill-fated bid to buy Preston bus station last year to save it from possible demolition.
It was revealed on Monday that the bus station was to be given listed building status.
Mr Rigby, who has a portfolio of companies employing more than 800 people, says The Villa et al will take the financial risk whether the building is sold to him or leased.
He said: “I hope this will be well received.
“What we all want to see is Preston city centre thriving. Look at the location and the potential of the place.
“If you have a four-star city centre hotel linked with world-class facilities it’s a virtual circle.
“If Preston council don’t support us they are crackers.”
The proposal would see UCLan occupy part of the site, developing further practical and arts-based courses, which in turn would use the 2,000 capacity Guild Hall.
The world-renowned Lowry in Salford is working with Mr Rigby to develop the Guild Hall as an entertainment venue.
Plans also include an international food court which will support both the students and theatre goers .
Blackpool-based Mr Rigby said: “The Guild Hall is a unique venue that if lost would be a travesty not just for our generation but our children and their children. The venue requires a clear vision and much TLC to regain its position as a world class entertainment mecca and conference venue.
“That’s why I have brought together a collective that could transform the venue and area to create a unique offering for local residents and attract people from across the globe.”
The proposal, submitted last week to Preston City Council, will be detailed to councillors before a decision is made on the landmark site.
The Guild Hall was built in 1972 is now said to be costing Preston Council £1m a year.
Mr Rigby’s group say the combination of a food court and shops, conference and entertainment facilities and high usage by UCLan will transform the the building.
They also believe an upmarket hotel will attract a large number of overnight stays.
That plan could be considered regardless of the Guild Hall bid.
Preston Council leader Peter Rankin said today there had been a total of four parties expressing an interest in the Guild Hall and a report would be considered by the cabinet next month.
“We have been extremely encouraged by the interest shown,” he said.