(Courtesy of Wirral Globe) Wirral's Pacific Road Theatre looks set to be transformed into a state-of-the-art business centre.
A bid to take over management of the now disused theatre has been submitted to the council by Wirral Chamber of Commerce. The newly-invigorated Chamber has already secured a significant grant - coupled with its own capital - to carry out a major interior redesign of the building, subject to councillors showing the green light to its proposals.
The issue will come before Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet next week - and officers are recommending it approves the proposal. A report says the authority's circumstances “have changed considerably” since efforts began to find a new use for Pacific Road in March 2012.
It states the Birkenhead theatre is no longer seen as a performance venue as staging shows and concerts are part of the council's business plan to make a success of its revamped Floral Pavilion.
The recommendations also say volunteer groups can take over management of the Transport Museum and Tramway, which operates from Pacific Road. If cabinet members agree, the town hall will enter into a lease arrangement with the Chamber allowing it to “draw down” funding to pay for conversion work. Once that is completed, a 25-year lease will be granted at a peppercorn rent.
The deal will allow access by Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society to the tramline inside the building, and the Taylor Street electricity sub-station which powers it.
The Chamber's chief executive, Paula Basnett, told the Globe: “Through working in partnership with organisations such Wirral Council, the redevelopment of Pacific Road is a great opportunity for us to create a business centre with an environment of the highest quality.
“This will bring not only significant opportunities for new and existing businesses to develop, but also be a conduit for employment creation. Wirral Chamber is committed in bringing this project to fruition, which will greatly enhance the economic prosperity of the area.”
Alternative bids considered and rejected include one from Moonshooter Promotions, a music promoter interested in the theatre for rock concerts.
The company had proposed an outright purchase of the building, but the council said it “no longer wishes to see Pacific Road operate as a performance venue in order to consolidate performances at the Floral Pavilion.”
Hylgar Properties also presented a bid expressing interest in acquiring the theatre for concerts.
Transport enthusiasts the BEST Group were originally strongly interested intaking over the building and tramway, seeing them as "a regeneration opportunity."
However, the council wrote to the group outlining its present proposals and asking for their views by October of 2013.
But no reply has been received to date, and it is assumed they no longer want to be in the running.
The theatre's popularity grew rapidly when it became the principal venue for the acclaimed Wirral International Guitar Festival - now staged at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton - attracting music fans from across the country and overseas.
But its future was thrown into the melting pot in 2010 when it was declared "surplus to requirements" by the council.
1970s Liverpool art-pop pioneers Deaf School reformed and played there in December of 2011 - the centre's last ever performance and the official closing night for Pacific Road as a rock venue.
Its fate was effectively sealed in 2012 by a dramatic U-turn from Merseytravel, whose board scrapped a long-standing proposal to transfer ownership to the transport authority - and no real progess has been made in finding it a new role until now.