ReTurner Prize 2021 – Reusing Coventry Empty Buildings

Our founder member Paul Maddocks wrote this article for the CAN (Community Action for Neighbourhoods) newsletter. Paul playfully asks whether there should be an award for the restoration of some of our amazing buildings. Paul writes….

Yes, Coventry does have some empty buildings, but slowly some buildings are being restored and put back into use. We should be celebrating this. That is why it would be nice to have an award each year for the best ‘ReTurner Prize’ (thank you for John Greatrex for the title).

We have nominated five buildings or groups of buildings we feel have benefited from receiving new blood and now have a future.

In no particulate order we start off with the old Coventry Evening Telegraph building that was destined to be pulled down for student accommodation. This lovely ‘Festival of Britain style’ building on the corner of Upper Well Street and Corporation Street has been turned into a fantastic hotel that recently was listed in the Top 100 best hotels in England by the Sunday Times. Luxury that Coventry deserves, it’s like stepping into a film set for the TV programme ‘Mad Men’.

The next building is the old Co-op on Corporation Street across the road from the Belgrade Theatre. This very large shop closed due to out-of-town and on-line shopping. This too is a ‘Festival of Britain design’ – it could have gone to be student flats. But it is now luxury apartments upstairs and amazing cafes and restaurants on the ground floor, bringing new life into this area of the city.

The next is a small group of very historic building, the Priory Cottages and the surviving city wall gates which all have been restored and made into overnight ‘Airbnb’ hire apartments. Bookings for the rooms began at the end of November.

Again a great plus to Coventry’s offer for luxury overnight accommodation. All profits will feed back in to the Historic Coventry Trust that then will be used to restore and run other historic buildings in the city.

We then come to Drapers Hall, built by the very wealthy city Drapers as a gentleman’s club and meeting place. Closed for around 35 years only used for a few occasional events. It is now an amazing grand building that will be the centre for music education, rehearsals and live performances. Many different styles of music are planned from classical through to jazz and many more, check out the list of performances which has already started. (Our new Town hall?)

And now we come to the most interesting “re-turn”- that’s the Litten Tree Buildings, upstarts above the Litten Tree Public House. It’s been closed for many years and the building has only until November 2022 when it will be demolished to make way for the ‘City Centre South’ development.

But in the meantime the top three floors have been cleared and made into art and public exhibition space by Alan Denyer and his team of volunteers. Open free it has a series of various events and exhibitions that have highlighted the need for more public exhibition space in the city that encourages struggling artist and performers.

So, we could have picked other projects and buildings but we like to kept it to just the five, to focus on the quality and imagination of them all.


So what buildings would you like to see on a list for 2022? The Old Swimming Baths and Sport Centre ‘the elephant building’, Priory Visitor Centre, the old Toy Museum, or Whitefriars? What would you want to see them become? Please send in your suggestions to

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