The man behind plans for a prime seafront site has dropped his own dream redevelopment – and vowed to build what the public wants.
Rob Starr is one of at least five interested parties hoping to be given a chance to build on the King Alfred leisure centre in Hove.
When he first approached Brighton and Hove City Council about the Kingsway site, the Hove-based businessman admitted his own dream was to have a 400-seater theatre at its core.
But now, after speaking to dozens of local people, he claims his plans have changed and he is now looking to the community for guidance on what they want.
Mr Starr, 43, who founded Seico Insurance from his bedroom in his teens and now runs the Edward Starr Charitable Trust, said he hoped the result could be “South Bank facilities with leisure for Hove”.
The comments come as the local authority starts to narrow down its search for a partner to redevelop the plot.
Mr Starr told The Argus: “This is not my project, this is our project. Nothing has been decided yet on what we will include.
“They said they do not want towers down there and we completely respect that. However it has to be viable.”
By viable, Mr Starr means profitable – and that means properties.
In its draft City Plan, the local authority believes the area could accommodate 400 homes.
Mr Starr admitted that, with that number, the scheme works.
He added: “If the public push for no residential then they will have to find somebody else to develop the site.”
However, this does not mean a repeat of the Frank Gehry scheme which included 750 homes, a leisure centre, and a GP surgery, he said.
Among the ideas currently being considered by Mr Starr and his team, which includes architects Haworth Tompkins, is a “grand hall”, which could be used for a rehearsal space, an ice rink or concerts.
In addition to 400 homes, he added he hopes to provide a diving pool, 25 metre swimming pool, and space for community work, volunteer workshops and a creative centre.
With detailed drawings and architect fees potentially costing up to £1 million, Mr Starr said he currently had no firm plans drawn up.
The businessman claims this would be a waste of money for those hoping to bid adding the development of a key site should “not be about who has the nice fancy model”.
Instead, he suggested the local authority invite groups in to pitch their idea to bosses in a few months time with one preferred team picked.
Talking point: What would you like to see at the King Alfred? Share your views by commenting below or to include your opinion on The Argus letters pages, email email@example.com
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