Why is Phoenix doing this?
Visitors numbers have grown every year since we opened in 2009, and the number of times when we are very busy has increased every year. Our planning shows we won’t be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to participate in our programme unless we expand.
We also have an ambition to engage a wider range people from Leicester’s diverse communities and this means we need more cinema, arts and events spaces to widen our offer.
As a charity, Phoenix has successfully grown the income we earn from ticket, café and conferencing sales to more than 75% of total annual income. The rest comes from public funding, but this has been cut over time and is at risk of further reductions. Our planning shows that our ability to earn more income will plateau due to venue capacity. As such, there is a risk to the financial sustainability of Phoenix unless we expand and become less reliant on public funding.
Finally, the Leicester City Council-owned car park site next to Phoenix is designated for development in the long term. Acting now with the support of the Council means we secure part of the site for Phoenix in a development that is sympathetic to the existing building and its purpose.
How will Phoenix change?
We’re looking forward to being able to offer our customers more choice – a wider range of films, a fuller arts programme as well as a bigger café. But in many ways, we expect to remain the same – a friendly independent cinema and art centre where everyone can enjoy, learn about and make great film and art.
What does Phoenix 2020 involve?
The plan is to add a two-storey extension to the current building over the outdoor area next to the Phoenix café and onto part of the car park. The extension will include two new cinemas and a better, more accessible, art gallery. The total café area will be extended with a bigger and better kitchen. There will different areas in the café and additional toilets. We also plan to improve some existing spaces used for public events and by Phoenix staff.
The plan includes an enclosed bar and open air terrace on the extension as a new place to relax, eat and drink in the Cultural Quarter, accessed by a lift from within the extension. The terrace will be an attractive outdoor landscaped and planted area on the roof of the extension that replaces and improves on the existing outdoor seating area and café planters. We see this as an important new amenity for Phoenix and the Cultural Quarter area.
What will it look like?
Phoenix is a multi-use building and we are paying close attention to the views of people who live or have business offices at Phoenix Square. For example, we are designing the roof of the extension to be attractive with planting and a natural roof to give a better outlook from the building than at present.
We aim to build an extension that is designed to be entirely compatible with the existing building and Cultural Quarter. Our website includes some architectural drawings and design images.
Are the designs finalised?
We have now finalised the shape and scale of the spaces involved in the development to Stage 3 in the RIBA Plan of Works construction model. The fixtures and finishes to the internal and external spaces will be addressed next. We are aiming for a high quality, welcoming and distinctive design that will add value to Phoenix Square and the wider area.
What about the Phoenix café outdoor area and car park?
The site next to Phoenix is owned by Leicester City Council and currently includes the pay and display car park operated by the council, and the outdoor café area and planters, which is already included within Phoenix’s lease.
With the help of volunteers and sponsors we have introduced seating and planting in the outdoor café area and made the space more attractive for customers. This is a popular space in an area otherwise lacking green space and outdoor recreational facilities. We want to improve on this and our Phoenix 2020 design includes the outdoor landscaped and planted area on the roof of the extension.
The car park is designated as a development site in the longer term and, should our plans not be realised, there is a risk of another taller development on the site that would be closer to Phoenix Square.
How will Phoenix’s opening hours change?
There are no plans to change our opening hours. Phoenix is a regulated premises and we plan to apply our current licenced opening hours to the extension and open air terrace.
What are you doing about accessibility?
We are working with an accessibility consultant and disability user groups to ensure the extension is as accessible as possible. We aim to improve on our already good record of accessibility, and remain welcoming to all. The feedback from our recent consultations with access partners is being included in the design process.
Will the film programme change?
With four screens, we’ll be able to show a wider range of films – everything from the bigger Oscar contenders to smaller independent films and seasons. We will also be able to offer more screening times for each film, making it easier to see films at times which suit you.
When do you expect the work to start?
We’re planning for construction work to start in March 2020 and for everything to be completed by March 2021. But this is not finalised – we are currently planning the construction phase of the work.
Where will you find the remaining funds?
We have a fundraising team at Phoenix which is looking at a wide range of potential sources of funding. These include trusts and foundations, sponsorship from local businesses, and money from individual donors. There’s a long way to go and much work yet to be done, but we are well on the way.
How can we help?
If you are in a position to help us financially – either as an individual or through a company or organisation – we’d love to talk to you. Our fundraising programme 2020 | BE PART OF IT provides an easy way to donate – we’ve created some fun ways to recognise your generosity. If you’d like to discuss you support please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can we expect much disruption?
We expect Phoenix to remain open during the construction phase, but there will be some of months when our Café Bar will need to close. During that time, we plan to have refreshments available from a different point in the building. We’re also planning to build a larger art gallery and expect to provide an offsite art programme whilst that work is carried out.
Will parking be affected?
In our design proposals, we aim to retain the same level of adjacent parking as we have currently. The city council are key partners, and we’ll work closely with them to keep the importance of public parking for our customers on the agenda.
The site next to Phoenix was bought by the city council in 2015 and turned into the current car park to provide space for Phoenix customers and others visiting the Cultural Quarter. At the same time the Council enabled more on-street parking around the centre. The proposal includes remodelling the existing car park.
Phoenix has a deal for Phoenix customers with the NCP Car Park on Halford Street.
What will be the impact on traffic in the area?
As part of the process there will be a formal impact analysis looking at environmental issues and traffic. Arts Council England sets particularly high standards for the new buildings it funds, and we will be looking at ways to keep our impact to a minimum.
What happens if you don’t raise the money?
We’re confident we will, and will be working hard to do so. But if we don’t raise the full amount, we may need to scale back our plans. Whatever development we achieve, Phoenix will continue to have the same aims and ethos. Ultimately, our aim is to share great film and art and make a positive difference to the lives of as many people as possible. Having a bigger venue will help us achieve that, but without it we will still continue to focus on how we can have a greater impact in future.
If you build it, are you confident more people will come?
Since moving to Leicester’s Cultural Quarter over nine years ago, Phoenix has more than doubled its audience numbers to around 200,000 visits a year. By increasing capacity, we’re confident we can double the number of people attending within five years.
What impact do you expect these changes to have on people in the apartments and businesses operating out of Phoenix Square?
We have been working closely with others in the building to get their input into our plans. We have been talking informally with people since the first public announcement of Phoenix 2020 in December 2017.
In June this year, we invited all the people who live and work at Phoenix Square to a series of presentations and drop-in sessions to learn about our early plans and give their views. We were able to take a number of specific considerations and concerns into account and ensure these were addressed in the design process.
Inevitably, we expect there to be some disruption doing construction work but we’ll manage this as sensitively as possible for all concerned. Ultimately, we want to ensure Phoenix continues to thrive and make the Cultural Quarter a great place to live and work.
Who owns Phoenix Square and the car park?
Leicester City Council owns the freehold of the building and adjacent car park. Phoenix has a long-term lease with the city council as part of an agreement to provide cultural services to Leicester. Phoenix 2020 is a partnership between Phoenix and the Council.
How will the city benefit from the project?
In addition to the expansion of Phoenix’s cultural programme, the city will benefit economically. Phoenix generates around £2.6 million visitor spending into the Leicester’s economy, which creates jobs and business for our network of local suppliers in the city and county. Phoenix also makes a unique contribution as Leicester’s creative digital media hub in place-making, bringing communities together, education and skills, and fostering the area’s creative industries.
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