Once a thriving hub of businesses and boutiques, there is little question now that Holmeside has become the worst part of Sunderland City Centre. Paling in the shadow of its former glory, it’s badly in need of a makeover. Attempts to regenerate the area were quashed by the 2008 financial crisis. The council had an £800 million deal with developer Thornfield Properties secured to completely rebuild the triangle and create a new skyscraper called “The Spirit of Sunderland”.
The company collapsed, the rest is history. For an unknown reason, the development itself was also mothballed. Now, the area has been left to rot and looks horrendous. Derelict, decaying buildings and empty shop units galore. It’s not a pretty sight.
In the middle of it all sits the historic Odeon cinema building, currently occupied by Mecca bingo. The tower was opened in 1932 under the original name of “Black’s Regal Cinema”, but has long since closed its door to films as the market shrunk in the following decades with the rise of television. The style and rich iconography of the building gives it importance. It was a defining element of the area’s character and soul. However, much to fashion of the Holmeside itself, the tower’s appearance is also decaying. The paint is fading, cracking and stained. Worse, the edges and rims of the building have become populated with long and highly visible weeds. It looks awful.
Although it is private property, one must surely question how long we can allow a historic structure to take on such a shabby appearance? As part of resurrecting holmeside, we need to come together as a community and clean up the tower. It needs to be painted back in its traditional white attire, it needs to be weeded.
If we are to have pride for the area, we need to be able to express determination, ambition and respect for the assets we have. The Odeon similar building is not some mossy, weedy Mesoamerican like ruin lost and forgotten, it’s a symbol of Sunderland life and heritage. It’s being neglected, it’s time to sort it out!