Dedman Gray Sell The New Empire Theatre

Posted in: Commercial, General News

A FORMER theatre which has stood empty for eight years has been sold to an Asian investment firm, the Echo can reveal.

A company based in Hong Kong has snapped up the New Empire Theatre, in Alexandra Street, Southend, for around £750,000.

It comes a year after an arson attack at the 120-year-old building saw the roof collapsed, destroying part of the first floor auditorium.

Mike Gray, managing director of estate agents Dedman Gray, which has been managing the sale, said: “The latest price for the site was more than three quarters of a million pounds and a sale has taken place close to that.

“After a couple of years of false promises and uncertainty with the New Empire Theatre, it is great news to see a more than capable developer step forward to take a long term investment in this project.

“After being unused for so long and the fire to the roof, the new owners are considering a refurbishment programme or a complete new redevelopment of the site.

“Arrangements will soon be made for them to speak to the local planners.

“Once again, it is so satisfying to see investment to the regeneration of prime town centre properties in Southend.”

News that the building has been sold has been welcomed.

Ann Holland, Tory councillor for culture, tourism and the economy, said: “I was walking past the building and saw the sold sign. Nobody likes to see empty buildings, so it’s good news it has got a future.

“If it was going to be used for culture that would be great. Southend is known for its arts and culture, but venues aren’t in abundance. I know that we do need housing but we are also in need of arts venues.

“Hopefully they will be good landlords, which is the main thing.”

The building was previously used by an amateur dramatics group.

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for the Milton ward, said the building has been plagued by vandalism and antisocial behaviour.

He said: “It’s a good thing that it has been sold and hopefully being brought back into use.

“I know that it has had a few problems while it has been empty. It has been a magnet for antisocial behaviour, from children climbing on the roof to trespassers and it has had a few vermin issues.

“I am delighted that it has been sold and will wait to see what they will do with it. It is in a good location right in the town centre.”