Central London's famed Astoria venue is still some years away from the wrecking ball. So says Melvin Benn, managing director of festivals organizer Festival Republic, which lists the Astoria among its portfolio of interests.

Benn says he is "reasonably certain" the 2,000 capacity live music venue won't be bulldozed within the next few years. "I would say 2010, 2011 would be the earliest time," he tells Billboard.biz.

For several years, the vintage venue on Charing Cross Road in London's West End has been under threat from the government's proposed £10 billion ($20 billion) Crossrail project, which would see the building and surrounding sites flattened to make way for a new underground rail link. Those plans are expected to be pushed through ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be hosted by the British capital.

"My feeling is that, working on the basis that the Olympic project will go pretty close to the wire," adds Benn, "the majority of the above-the-ground work won't actually start until 2011-2012. And I can't see any reason to knock the venues down for the sake of knocking them down."

The size and location of the Astoria, which began life as a pickle factory in the 1920s, has seen the theater become established as an essential gig spot for bands on the way up and as a hip London showcase for major artists. Some of the world's most influential acts have played there, including U2, the Rolling Stones, Prince, David Bowie and Radiohead.

Property developers Derwent Valley bought the freehold on the Astoria in 2006 for an estimated £24 million ($48 million). Derwent did not return calls for comment.

For more on the Astoria and Festival Republic, read Benn's Q&A in this week's Billboard Magazine.

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