A CABINET Minister was given a tour of the former Odeon Cinema which is set to be transformed into Chester’s new state-of-the-art theatre complex.
Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was full of praise for the Odeon redevelopment project, branded RE:NEW, during a visit to the city.
MPs, councillors and the media were given a behind-the-scenes tour inside the Grade II listed Odeon, on Northgate Street, to look at the progress being made on site and talk about the impact the £37.5 million theatre, library and cinema redevelopment will have on Chester.
The first stage of the project, dismantling Commerce House, is already well under way and Cheshire West and Chester Council expects the redevelopment of the art deco building to be completed by autumn 2016 – just in time for the 80th anniversary of the opening of the building in 1936.
Mrs Miller praised the development during the tour of the building and said it would make Chester a “cultural hub”.
She said: “What is interesting is Chester has such a powerful offering in terms of heritage and retail and a new cultural centre will naturally complement that.
“It will encourage people to visit the area and build a cultural hub which will also encourage business.
“I think Chester is such an important city in its history, architecture and heritage that having this extra reason to come and visit will help it compete with many of the other cities around and about. You only have to look at Manchester to see how they have sold themselves at home and abroad.
“It is really important local authorities understand the importance the arts and culture have to make the area better to live in.
“Through things like the arts council the Government can help support local authorities in the work they are doing.
“The local authority have invested into the Odeon, which is an investment in the future.”
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture and economy, said RE:NEW would give a boost to the night-time economy.
He said: “The great thing about Chester is its size. You can park the car and walk to all the sites, the cathedral, the amphitheatre, the racecourse, the City Walls and so on. You can’t do that in many cities.
“The theatre will add to that and reinvigorate the night-time economy.”
Chester MP Stephen Mosley said other cities were now looking to Chester for ideas.
He said: “People who come to Chester always say what a great city it is.
“But I think we do not always appreciate what we have.
“People always mention what cities like York are doing.
“We compare ourselves with those, but they are also looking at us to see what Chester are doing as well.”