By Dave Baldwin
Known variously as Tequila, Revolution and more recently Vibe, the former nightclub in Bradford city centre might seem an unlikely location for a new place of worship. But that is exactly what the Diocese of Leeds has in mind for the empty building in a prime location overlooking City Park.
Built in stone and glass in 2002 to match the classical style of neighbouring Alhambra theatre, the building in Glydegate Square is the subject of plans to create a £4.6m “focus point of faith” called Fountains Church, due to its proximity to the famous water feature.
The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, told the Church Times it would have “a strong Bradford identity: young, entrepreneurial, ethnically and culturally diverse, and confident about holding out a clear religious offer and call in the public space”. Reverend Linda Maslen, head of the project, said she wants the new church to be “a blessing to the people of Bradford, bringing life, hope, and love”. Whatever your faith, that’s a sentiment you can only welcome. We’re a broad church in Bradford.
The diocese chose the prominent site after an extensive search of properties in the city centre and is in negotiations with the leaseholder Bradford Council about securing planning permission for the change of use. “We hope and pray it will give spiritual refreshment right in the city centre”, said the Archdeacon of Bradford, Andy Jolley.
Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “It’s great to see the Anglican Church making such a significant investment in the city. Like us, they have faith in the city and what we are creating here. This new investment further enriches the spaces for faith in the city centre and we gladly welcome it.”
Significantly, it adds another piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the ongoing regeneration of central Bradford with the development of the Bradford Live world-class venue, the 1,000-home City Village scheme and the multi-storey food market at Darley Street.
The growing body of work is attracting attention. The London and Dubai-based property investment company Aspen Woolf has published a new guide examining Bradford which describes the district as “a hidden gem” for property investment. “A vibrant, youthful city with a long-standing legacy as a stronghold against trying times and big changes, Bradford is coming into its own,” it reports.
“Boasting the ideal blend between urban city living and the beautiful, historical countryside of West Yorkshire, Bradford is home to an enterprising economy, affordable living spaces and some exciting developments.”
The guide lists Bradford’s affordable mortgage costs and strategic location as key attractions for YURs (young urban residents), the demographic driving the new economy, and notes the high yields available for buy-to-let investors in the BD1 postcode, which are the 10th highest in the UK according to Totallymoney.co.uk. It also notes the Bradford Economic Partnership’s long-term focus on our young and enterprising population, our distinctive offer, our growth potential and our globally connected district.
Aspen Woolf concludes: “Bradford is one of the country’s most exciting cultural hubs, with a youthful, enterprising and dynamic population. Underpinned by an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong business ethic, Bradford will only continue on its journey as one of the most exciting property investment hotspots in the country.”
Of course, investments can go down as well as up in value but it’s clear to us that our district is extremely well placed to make the most of the opportunities that are being thrown up by the enduring uncertainty of our times. Investors are taking note. Momentum is gathering. The vibe is back.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club