Two decades ago, as a geography student at Sheffield Hallam University Greg Ball, now senior development manager for Urban Splash, would look at Park Hill, the colossal housing scheme towering over the city centre, and marvel at its sheer size and ambition.
“I lived quite close to the site, so I would see it every day,” he says. “It suffered from such negative comments and had a poor reputation for anti-social behaviour. It was just not a desirable place to me.”
Little did he imagine that two decades later he would be working on phase two of the transformation of the iconic Grade II* listed structure, working with regeneration and property company Places for People and Stirling Prize-winning architect Mikhail Riches to devise 195 new homes, a mix of one, two and three-bed apartments, plus commercial space for the lower floors, which it is hoped will become home to a restaurant/bar and work space for residents and locals.
“In total, we have 35 different apartment types,” Greg says. “Can you believe that? It’s because of the size and scope of the structure, we’ve been able to create lots of different arrangements. These are not little boxes all in a row.”
Phase two is approaching completion in September. There is one three-bedroomed apartment left for sale, at £230,000, plus one-bedroomed apartments from £145,000 to £160,000 and two-bedders at £180,000-£260,000.
Although 80 apartments have been sold to an investor – Greg says: “In terms of individual buyers, the demographic is completely widespread, older couples looking to downsize, some younger professionals where it’s their first home. It’s just a few minutes’ walk to the train station, so it’s really convenient.”
There are some crucial external elements to the second phase of the re-development. “The exterior design is different in that we’ve adopted more of a sensitive restoration of the phase two block. As you look at phase one, you’ll see quite brightly-coloured infill panels.
“With phase two, we’ve retained the Grade II* listed concrete structure, but also the brickwork to the façade as well. We’ve cleaned those up, grit-blasted them, and got the colour palette of the brickwork back to the original colour.”
This sensitive restoration has also helped to reduce the carbon footprint of the work: “The more of the building you retain, the better it is at reducing embodied carbon. We think we’re saving over 2,000 metric tonnes of CO2, so that’s quite significant really in terms of carbon saving.”
There are several further phases to come at Park Hill, including student accommodation, individual homes and a potential gallery/art studios complex.
The late 1950s and 1960s, when Park Hill was built, was an exciting time for architects and developers in Sheffield; alongside the historic structures which managed to survive the bombing raids of the Second World War, pioneering new buildings were created which set new precedents in architecture and design.
Almost as iconic as Park Hill flats was the Hallam Tower hotel on Fulwood Road between the smart suburb of Ranmoor, fashionable Broomhill and Endcliffe Park. Now renamed as ‘Hallam Towers’ it has been rebuilt into 101 luxury apartments following the original distinctive design, with a pool, a gym, and a concierge, believed to be the very first one in Sheffield. Two-bedroomed apartments start at £270,000 https://redbrik.co.uk/hallamtowers/.
“We’re now at 71 per cent reserved,” says Redbrik’s land and new homes director, Peter Lee. “It’s been steady, there was an initial massive influx when we first launched, a lot of enquiries, now our first purchasers are close to exchanging, ready for completion in September/October 2022. The specification is really high, but that’s what buyers are expecting. We’ve even had one knocking too apartments together to create their own bespoke space.”
He says there has been a lot of interest from over-50s, empty nesters and people who are downsizing from larger family homes “there is the cash knocking around for these places – people have the money sat in their bank account. And the low mortgage interest rate, it brings in perhaps a younger market.”
There has been controversy at Hallam Towers; local residents have protested about the plans, which have seen a number of incarnations over the years, and the impact on parking.
However, across Sheffield city centre, developers are investing in repurposing historic sites which might otherwise have stood derelict.
This week Manchester-based heritage specialist developer P.J. Livesey, which undertook the conversion of Middlewood hospital into 84 apartments in the late 1990s, announced it has secured permission to convert Tapton Court, a Grade II-listed Victorian villa into 14 apartments.
The original stable block and the gate house will each become a single self-contained property. Ranmoor House annexe, a later addition, will be converted to provide 18 apartments and four new build detached homes will be built in the grounds.
Built in 1868 for one of the town’s many steel magnates, it has been described historically as “a brass castle” above “the fog of the town”. In recent years, property became accommodation for nurses at the nearby hospital and the University of Sheffield.
A century separates Tapton Court from Park Hill and the original Hallam Towers, but the spirit of regeneration, re-use and recycle unites them all and promises to contribute towards a sustainable future for Sheffield city centre.