TALKS to convert Coventry’s ‘elephant’ building into an electric powered arts and heritage centre can now move forward, says the developer behind the proposals.
Alan Denyer – the owner of AWD restorations and pioneer of the proposals – says the new ‘green powered’ building could be renamed the ‘electric elephant’.
He says he is confident talks can ‘progress’ between his company and Coventry City Council for the creation of a community arts space and entertainment venue at the 1970s elephant building on Fairfax Street – currently a sports and leisure centre.
He says he is concentrating on the elephant plans now his pop-up arts space at the old Coventry Evening Telegraph (CET) building on Corporation Street has closed.
But Coventry City Council leaders are reviewing several options for the building’s future – including demolition.
And cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, councillor Jim O’Boyle told us any plan will need ‘serious financial backing’ and there have been no developments in talks.
Mr Denyer told the Observer his plans for the building would be sustainable, financially viable and add ‘drama’ to the city in the run up to UK City of Culture 2021.
The venue could host art displays, heritage exhibits, workshops and events.
They would also see the upper element of the sports hall converted into ‘New York style’ loft apartments – which would pay for some of the running costs and the upgrade of the building.
And Mr Denyer says he plans to invest in electric technology and make it ‘self-sufficient’.
He said: “I want to take it off grid. It is an opportunity to put solar technology on the roof and Tesla (an electric technology company) power wall batteries to store solar energy.
“It could be totally green powered without gas and electricity – totally self-sufficient.
“Coventry is positioning itself as the city of battery technology and to have an iconic building like the Elephant running on electric power would say a lot about the city.
“You could rename it the electric elephant.”
Mr Denyer claimed the proposals have won support from Coventry University as well as over 500 local artists, students, academics, arts and heritage organisations and community enthusiasts.
The Coventry Society – a conservation organisation – has also offered its support for the creation of a new ‘multi-purpose hall’.
He said: “It is important Coventry prepares for the 2021 year by creating something which has the capacity to be putting on interesting attractions – which is what being City of Culture is all about.
“It needs a legacy.”
Dwindling usage and increasing costs have taken their toll on the building – and it is deemed no longer fit for purpose by the council.
Coun O’Boyle said: “Talks are not moving forward and to call them talks is inaccurate. A meeting was held with an officer of the council where an outline sketch of the “idea” was presented. Nothing more.
“I have asked for a full business case to look at viability options for the future of the elephant building and swimming baths in the long term which could include a whole raft of potential uses.
“The sports centre and baths are still open and no decision has officially been made to close it.
“Any proposals going forward will need serious, robust, and professional interrogation regarding finance and business viability.”