MORE than £250,000 has been pledged to a campaign bidding to buy back and restore a popular former Ringwood cinema.
Businessman Jim Stride has hailed the support, having set up a Ringwood Community Investment Company (CIC) alongside local town councillor Darren Loose to buy the old Regal in the Market Place.
Speaking to the A&T, he revealed more than 500 people have already pledged to buy shares in the CIC, some promising sums in the thousands.
“It’s been fantastic so far and we’re confident that with more publicity more people will come forward and pledge,” he said. “I can say, that should, for whatever reason, this not happen that every single penny will be refunded to people.”
The Regal was a former corn exchange which originally opened in 1868 and subsequently became a cinema and then a concert venue in the 1970s, hosting bands including Status Quo. It later became a night club before closing in 2002, after which it fell into a state of disrepair.
Attempts since to reuse the site have failed to come to fruition, although current owner U+I, which owns and leases real estate, has a deal with developer Brownsea Build which has yet to put forward plans.
Now the CIC has teamed up with Ringwood Regal Action Group (RAG), which has also been trying to raise money to save the building, expected to cost £2m.
Mr Stride (54), who has been race director of the town’s pedal car grand prix three times, and whose company is a major sponsor of the town carnival, said: “The idea is with the community and the capital and money in the bank and everything being behind the scheme that we can show U+I that we can buy this.”
He continued: “For the next 18 to 24 months the Ringwood Community Investment CIC will raise funds to purchase the building, while Ringwood Regal will build further workable costed plans for this community facility.
“If we reach the magical day that the Ringwood community is the owner of this amazing building then there will be many from the community that will be required to provide their help in making this dream come true.”
Mike Tuck, chairman of RAG, said: “We all have the same aim, to purchase, restore and run the venue for the benefit of the Ringwood community.
“Some time ago we used a crowdfunding venture to raise £5,000 in six weeks. Some of this money we used to fund surveys and valuations of the Regal building.
“We also sought advice on becoming a registered charity and have drawn up detailed plans for our vision of the Regal and commissioned artists’ impressions from local architects.
“There is still some of this money left, and we want to share all of the above with Jim and Darren once the building has been purchased, so we can move forward with the renovation as quickly as possible.
“We all feel that once the building is owned by the community, raising money for structural repairs and extensions, etc, will be a lot easier as we will have something tangible to show investors.
“So please get behind and support the CIC so that we can show the current building’s owners that we are serious,” he said.
More information on the CIC is available at https://ringwoodcommunityinvestment.co.uk