The story of Sheffield’s most iconic post-war building is to be told in a musical but what is it like to live in Park Hill flats? Sharon Dale reports.
Google searches for “Park Hill flats” shot up after troubadour Richard Hawley announced that his first stage musical would tell the story of Sheffield’s most iconic post-war building.
Fans unfamiliar with the singer-songwriter’s home city will have found one of architecture’s most compelling stories.
The concrete leviathan was designed by architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith who took inspiration from Le Corbusier’s Unite d’habitation in Marseille.
Built between 1957 and 1961, the gargantuan Brutalist structure divided opinion but with almost 1,000 council flats, it offered an escape from the slums to the romantic sounding “Streets in the Sky”
Residents loved the mod cons, exceptional views, shops, pubs and high-rise streets, which were wide enough for milk floats to deliver door-to-door. But affection for this promised land dimmed as Park Hill degenerated. By the 1980s it was a notorious no-go area and in 1998 it was grade II listed which meant it couldn’t be demolished.
Urban Splash, a developer specialising in regeneration, spotted its potential and in 2007, with the backing of the council and English Heritage, they came up with a plan to revive it. Against all the odds, including the recession, phase one of the reborn Park Hill is now complete and dressed in colourful anodised cladding. There are 260 new residents, 10 work spaces, an arts space, a nursery, and a park. The £25m phase two will begin this summer and will see another 200 private homes. Phase three will be 330 student flats and the final two phases include provision for the S1 Artspace Project, along with private and affordable homes.
Whether the musical will end on a similar high we’ll have to wait and see. “Standing at the Sky’s Edge”, also the title of Hawley’s acclaimed 2012 album, will be performed at the Crucible Theatre in March 14 and April 6 next year. It will tell the story of Park Hill through the lives of five friends.
The new, remodelled Park Hill is very different from its previous incarnation. Two thirds of the flats are privately owned while a third belong to a housing association. Design aficionados and architects are especially enamoured by the properties.
There are three for sale at the moment, two of which are marketed by London-based The Modern House, which specialises in selling Modernist properties. There is a two bedroom flat at £185,000, another at £179,000 and a one-bedroom home for £139,000.
James Mills, an associate architect, and his wife, Emma, were among the first to buy a home in Park Hill and moved there in 2013. Five years on and they are still in love with their two-bedroom duplex.
James says: “Everyone who comes to Park Hill has a positive response to the design. The best element for us is the full-height glazing. Every room is filled with light and views.
“We have looked at moving but other properties with standard windows are so dark in comparison and we love this location next to the railway station and in walking distance of the city centre. The only way we will leave Park Hill is to build our own home.”
There is also a growing sense of community thanks to communal green space and seating areas, regular events and a residents’ Facebook group. The online forum also features some complaints about Great Places, the company that manages the building.
“The biggest issue is that we had a 24-hour concierge when we first moved in and that is no longer the case. Park Hill failed the first time because it was blighted by social issues as a result of bad management and we don’t want it to fail again,” says James.
Carl Goodman owns the one-bedroom flat that is for sale and is involved with the Park Hill Residents’ Association. He says he has no complaints about Great Places, which has funded a community garden and has supported the resident association with grant applications.
Ben Barraclough, Neighbourhood Manager at Great Places, says that the security provision has been extended and more CCTV cameras installed.
Carl adds: “I’ve been here two years and it’s brilliant. You meet people in the lifts and on the streets in the sky and at events. It’s a very sociable place to live and I have made some great friends. I have to move for work but I’ll definitely be back to visit.”
*There are three Park Hill apartments on the sale. SheffLets is marketing a three-bedroom flat for £185,000. www.shefflets.com.
The Modern House, an estate and letting agent specialising in Modernist properties, and much-loved by architects and designers, is marketing two homes at Park Hill.
A two-bedroom apartment on Long Henry Street with an open-plan living space, storeroom and study area, plus a double balcony is £179,000.
A one-bedroom home with open-plan living area, study space and Juliet balcony is £139,000.
For details visit www.themodernhouse.com