Those behind a competition to draw up plans for a new Pavilion-type venue for Hemel Hempstead hope the winning design will be so enticing that borough bosses will rethink plans for a new civic building.
Letters have been sent out to architects inviting them to put their designs forward for a new live entertainment base.
Labour’s MP hopeful Tony Breslin said: “The decade since the closure of the Pavilion has seen a marked decline in the fortunes of our town with a drop in footfall in the Marlowes, an increase in the number of pound shops and the lack-lustre performance of the Riverside project.
“The town centre is deserted in the evenings and on Sundays. We believe that a new Pavilion can do much to put the heart back into Hemel Hempstead.”
The competition winner could see their idea turned into a reality if given the go ahead by chiefs at Dacorum Borough Council.
But leader of the council Andrew Williams has already warned that there is no money in the coffers to fund such a building and any proposal must be self-funding.
However, those behind the competition say they anticipate that the winning entry will secure funding by:
> Abandoning current plans for a new public service quarter on the former Pavilion site and using resources allocated to this for a new Pavilion.
>Placing an arts and community venue at the heart of the new public service quarter, such that it becomes an artistic, creative and community space rather than just an administrative one.
>Developing proposals designed to attract private investment by ensuring that these have a number of commercial, income generating dimensions
>An application for lottery or similar funding to support the design, construction and launch phase, within the context of a venue that has a sustainable, self-funding business model in place for the longer term.
The competition formally opens today (Monday) and ideas will be shortlisted by a panel chaired by Kerry Underwood, of Underwood Solicitors.
It will be the public that decide the final winner through online voting via social media.
Mr Breslin said: “We envisage a sustainable, income-generating, signature building that will act as an artistic, creative and cultural hub, and a catalyst for the broader regeneration of Hemel Hempstead, both in the town-centre and beyond.
“At the very least, we want to stimulate public debate about what kind of town we want Hemel Hempstead to be, and what the role of the arts, creative and community sectors should be in such a town.
“We believe that an architectural competition can give focus to the growing public calls, from individuals of all political backgrounds, for a new Pavilion.”