Bernard Ginns: New lease of life for Park Hill and Sheffield city centre

Park Hill

Park Hill

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“A VISION born out of pure optimism and modernist idealism. Years of neglect and a few wrong turns brought it to the brink of demolition,” said the architect Christopher Egret.

He was speaking about Park Hill, “a brute of a building” and one of Sheffield’s most prominent landmarks.

The 1961 estate towers ominously over the train station, literally on the wrong side of the tracks, a permanent reminder of appalling social housing policy.

But the days of Park Hill being a no-go zone for all but a few hardy residents and pin-eyed heroin addicts appear to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

The development has a new lease of life under developers Urban Splash, the regeneration specialist.

The company itself is a survivor. It is one of the few northern developers to emerge from the property downturn.

Urban Splash has now completed the first of five phases of the Park Hill project. This includes 260 residential units, of which 164 have been sold. Much of the commercial space has also been occupied.

During my visit on a cold and crisp morning last week, I met Karl Dalgleish, director of planning and economic consultancy Kada Research Ltd, who is investing £90,000 to create his dream office space on the ground floor.

He told me there is a lack of commercial space for businesses of his size in Sheffield. His new office will have space for four workers. Turnover last year was £200,000. This year, he is hopeful it will rise to £250,000. “It’s a growing business,” he said, reeling off projects including advice on EU funding and HS2.

I also met Nik Bax, director of design agency Human, the first company to move into Park Hill three years ago.

His commercial space is split over two floors. We sit on the second floor in stylish leather chairs and look out over the busy city of Sheffield.

Mr Bax treats me to some very good decaf coffee and tells me about his career. He is a survivor of the Britpop era and a former member of The Designers Republic design studio, where he created iconic logos for bands including Pulp and Supergrass.

Human is doing a lot of work overseas as well as closer to home with Sheffield University. Mr Bax said: “We like working with scientists and we like working with musicians.”

The company had an exhibition of its 3D design work at the Calm and Punk gallery in Tokyo last year.

Urban Splash said 10 companies will be based at Park Hill. Others include advertising agency Uber.

Mark Latham, regeneration director at Urban Splash, took me to the roof of Park Hill for a spectacular view of the city.

I don’t like heights but even I could see there is a lot of development work going on in Sheffield at the moment.

The Moor, Sheffield Retail Quarter and Sheffield Chinatown projects are modernising the city centre and creating new space both for established brands and new entrepreneurs.

It looks and feels like a different city centre to the one castigated by Lord Wolfson back in 2013 for falling behind the other great industrial cities of Britain.

“Leeds has built the Trinity centre, Birmingham the Bullring and Manchester the Arndale Centre... Meantime, what has the city’s executive team done for Sheffield’s retail centre? My view as a shopkeeper: not much.”

In the Moor Market, I met Sean Clarke, a former teacher turned retailer whose Beer Central sells hundreds of different types of beer. He uses social media to sell online.

Further in the Moor Market, I met Patrick Harrison, the founder of Louro, a new deli specialising in Iberian products such as salted cod, canned fish and cured meats. He has a passion for Portugal - England’s oldest ally - and his girlfriend is from the Alentejo region.

I have always had a warm welcome when I have visited this wonderful country. Just like Sheffield.

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