Plans for Bristol's doomed ice rink to go on show
PLANS for the building which is home to Bristol's doomed ice rink are to be made public for the first time this weekend.
And the Post can reveal that Unite – the company which owns the building – has abandoned a scheme which would have included a smaller ice rink at the Trenchard Street site.
As exclusively revealed in the Post the historic ice rink will close for good in October as a result of the redevelopment of the 1960s building in the city centre.
Bristol-based Unite has owned the complex for the last ten years and has decided the time has come to press ahead with a scheme to completely redevelop the concrete building, which sits on the O2 concert venue.
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The decision to close the ice rink was met with dismay and anger from various groups including Bristol's ice hockey team, the Pitbulls, and other groups.
However, Unite is adamant that its scheme will improve the neglected Trenchard Street area and open it up to other businesses.
The firm, which is based in Bristol, specialises in converting buildings into student accommodation and owns several properties in the city centre.
Unite currently has 3,000 rooms in Bristol alone but is convinced that there is demand for more thanks to the popularity of the city with prospective students and the quality of its two universities.
The company is ploughing £20 million into the project which is likely to be the biggest development of its kind in the city over the next two years.
Development director James Hunt said: "This is a major project for us but we got to the point where we had to do something with the building. It was getting to the stage where the building was starting to become expensive to maintain and we had to invest in it or risk it becoming too expensive to operate.
"Of course we looked at the viability of the ice rink and we spoke to other operators in the field. At the end of the day the ice rink was just not viable."
He added: "There are not many companies who will be investing £20 million in a scheme of this size in Bristol but we believe that the demand is there in the city for high-quality student accommodation."
The company had originally considered including a smaller rink in the redevelopment but that idea has now been discarded.
The scheme will see the top part of the concrete structure completely removed and replaced with an eight- storey structure which will include space for up to 550 students in the shape of single studio apartments and shared flats. The plans also include room for a new entertainment space such as a small theatre.
The front of the O2 will also get a makeover and the plans include a new cafe or restaurant on Trenchard Street.
Unite also want to open up the side of the building and landscape the area. The plan is to make it more accessible and user friendly and open up the link to Park Row for pedestrians.
A public exhibition is being held this weekend to give members of the public a chance to take a look at the plans for themselves. The exhibition is being held at the Watershed on Saturday and Sunday.
Unite is keen to point out that the O2 Academy will stay open for business throughout the work.
Mr Hunt said: "Hopefully this scheme will help regenerate this prime quarter of Bristol by bringing 550 students with their associated spending power to the city centre and free up over 100 private homes that might otherwise be occupied by students in other parts of the city.
"Under the scheme, this pedestrian link will be improved and the proposal includes a new cafe adjacent to the O2 Academy to increase the active frontage along Trenchard Street.
"The redevelopment of the site will enhance the building's contribution to the streetscape and the Tyndalls Park Conservation Area."
Bristol Pitbulls are still considering their future and it is looking increasingly unlikely the team will have a home for next season.
A planning application will be lodged with the council in July and the work should be completed in time for the start of the academic year in 2014.