Two rival groups bidding to turn a run-down former cinema building into a live music venue have been given eight weeks to prepare their cases.
Bradford Council, the new owner of the former Odeon in the city centre, last night invited “expressions of interest” in developing the building.
The authority is hoping to sell the building to a developer but says it will not be providing any money towards refurbishment or redevelopment.
Council bosses will be considering “commercially viable proposals” that involve the retention of all, or as much as possible, of the existing building.
The closing date for completed initial bids is January 30.
Yesterday the council warned that if no viable project is put forward, demolition may be the only option.
A bid document warned: “If at the end of this process no viable project which retains all of as much as possible of the building can be identified then the council will have to consider alternative development options which may involve demolition of the building.”
Would-be developers are also warned that the building has problems with damp, leaks, rot, mould, rusty metalwork and crumbling masonry.
A structural survey has revealed that work is needed just to stabilise the building, including roof and masonry repairs, dome structure repairs and work on dry rot.
These problems are not seen as major by either of the two bidders who have already made their proposals public.
Architect Tim Ronalds, part of the Bradford Live team, has toured the Odeon and is impressed.
If dividing walls and floors are removed, “it would enable the epic space of the original auditorium to be revealed, allowing the city to see the asset that it has”, he said.
The Bradford Live bid is led by local businessman Lee Craven, who has already spent thousands working up his vision.
He has brought together architects, engineers and specialists to draw up plans for a venue with a capacity of around 4,000.
Rival bid Bradford One is led by Gideon Seymour, head of a charity in the city.
He believes the Odeon can be converted into a music venue for around 2,000 people, alongside a new creative/film production facility. Grants of around £5m could be available, he said.
“The challenge for us, if we get through this phase, is making sure all the sums add up.
“We are looking at a variety of income streams. Each stage will be more complex and detailed.”
Council leader Coun David Green said: “I am delighted that we are now in a position to request expressions of interest for this iconic building.
“I would like to pay tribute to all those who fought for so long and so well to protect the building and create the exciting opportunity we are able to launch this week.”
Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, which has campaigned to save the building, said it would prefer several bidders to come forward.
“A two-horse race could be quite limited and dangerous,” said spokesman Mark Nicholson.
“This is shut up or put up time. We are now down to the nitty gritty.”
Colin Philpott, chairman of Bradford Breakthrough, an advocacy and networking group, said: “I’ve seen the proposals being put forward by the two main community groups and I think their plans contain exciting ideas.
“Of course the challenge will be financial – can they raise the money to convert the place and can there be sustainable business plans for the uses of the building they’re proposing?
“I really hope they can find ways of reviving the Odeon.
“But if they can’t, what mustn’t be allowed is another long period of years of nothing happening.
“It would be a shame if the building had to come down but better that than many more years of blight.”