Insiders at Cheshire West and Chester Council indicate these are the two options left on the table following an invitation for firms to submit concept schemes for the redevelopment of the grade II-listed building and the remodelling of the public realm in which it sits.
This is the latest attempt to transform what has become an eyesore in a prominent location.
Chester Renaissance , now called Chester Growth Partnership, had pursued an idea suggested by economic troubleshooters at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) who wanted the crumbling Georgian building turned into a Roman experience centre with the Roman remains exposed in the basement and on public view.
Then chairman Steve Broomhead did not rule out combining a visitor centre with a hotel on the same site.
But plans for a must-see visitor attraction fell through in 2014 when Patrick Parsons allegedly pulled out of the proposed vision because the building ‘wasn’t safe’ and needed ‘too much investment’ – thought to total millions of pounds.
Cllr Brian Clarke , cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure at CWaC, was not prepared to go in to detail about the latest options but hopes progress can made in 2016.
He said: “The council believes that Dee House has significant potential for re-development and is keen to see it brought back into use.
“We have identified some potential uses for the building and are currently in discussion with a number of developers. We are unable to provide further details at this stage for legal reasons. We hope to have made a decision with regard to the preferred development partner by summer 2016.
Any proposals must be 'carefully considered'
“Dee House is a listed building that occupies the site of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, so any scheme that is taken forward must be carefully considered and worked through with Historic England. Any proposal which emerges will be fully consulted on with the community.”
The former convent, which has been vacant since BT moved out around 20 years ago, has long divided public opinion with some saying it is an ‘eyesore’ – and should be knocked down to allow the amphitheatre to be fully evacuated – while others say it is of ‘historical importance’ in its own right and should be maintained.
CWaC’s invitation to tender stated: “Historic England has expressed a firm view that the building should be retained and brought back to beneficial use. The redevelopment should enhance the setting of the amphitheatre and support an active and vibrant public realm adjacent to the building.”