But its new owners hope to breathe new life into this spectacular building and once again transform the one-acre site into one of the city’s top destinations.
Matsim Properties Ltd, which bought the property in early September, is proposing to adapt it to a mixed-use development.
The circular auditorium which – with its richly decorated ceiling in the form of a panel tent – is the most impressive part of the site, would once again host shows and entertainment, while the surrounding units would be used for food and drink.
Meanwhile, the top floors of Hippodrome House and a new build on Ship Street Car Park would be converted into an aparthotel, and the flying tower would be used as flexible office space.
More than 1,500 people visited the building to learn more about the proposals in May and to take a look at the auditorium.
Simon Lambor of Matsim said of the comments received so far: “We have not had any negative comments. “
Many people had interesting and personal stories to tell about the building – “people who worked here or their loved ones worked here, who had great stories and who knew it by heart”.
The most recent memories of the building will have been of its time as a bingo hall. It has been used for this purpose since the 1960s, when the Mecca organization took it over, until 2006, when it was listed on Historic England’s List of Endangered Heritage.
But the Hippodrome has survived many different reincarnations over its 120-year history. Originally opened as an ice rink in 1897, it was transformed into a circus in 1901 before being transformed into a variety theater a year later.
In recent years, there have been several attempts to re-imagine the space – as a bespoke concert hall, cinema and hotel.
Mr. Lambor said Matsim was able to learn from all of these earlier proposals.
But before moving forward on his vision for the site, urgent work is necessary to save the building. The biggest problem is the roof, which collapses and collapses due to years of leaks, poor ventilation and rotting. Matsim is currently preparing to build a new roof over the existing roof, which waterproofs it and allows the detailed ceiling to be renovated. This work will take place in the coming months, and Mr. Lambor hopes that an urban planning file will be submitted by the end of the summer.
If all goes according to plan, the building could be ready to open by the end of 2023.
In addition to restoring the site to its original function as an entertainment venue, Mr Lambor said: “We considered using the existing building as much as possible. “
Many of its unique features will be restored and preserved, such as the retractable roof of the auditorium.
Meanwhile, the Elephant Ramp, once used by animals transported from the waiting area to the stage, will become a video and audio museum telling the rich history of the Hippodrome.
Matsim also wants to create outdoor restaurants on Middle Street and hopes the council will commit to improving the public realm and making the road pedestrian.
“The middle street has kind of been forgotten,” Mr. Lambor said. “It was one of the main streets in the city center.”