Cllr Hunt said that reaction to this week's news has been positive. Credit: SCC

‘Meanwhile uses’ expected at Sheffield landmark

Sheffield City Council’s Leader Cllr Tom Hunt expects “life to start returning” to the former Cole Brothers store within the next year as Urban Splash maps out its full redevelopment, he told Place Yorkshire.

Speaking to Place 24 hours after it was revealed the developer had been accepted as preferred bidder by SCC, Hunt said combined with the neighbouring Heart of the City scheme, “we’ll be seeing a revitalised Barker’s Pool and Cambridge Street, a beating heart of Sheffield that will be a really exciting place to be”.

Splash has set out a timeline of delivering the project in the next three years, but Cllr Hunt told Place that the council expects meanwhile uses to appear in the next six to 12 months.

Meanwhile uses have become a key part of maintaining awareness of and even building anticipation around upcoming development on urban sites, keeping them in the public consciousness and creating an income-producing destination while long-term plans are finalised.

For that development, Urban Splash has proposed a mix of retail, leisure and workspace for the listed former home of John Lewis. Studio spaces, a gym and a potential rooftop pocket park are also included.

Cllr Hunt said that the reaction to the announcement had been positive: “From the people I’ve spoken to, and the various vox pops I’ve seen, there’s a positive reaction. People are looking forward to seeing it come to life, and becoming part of a city centre on the up.”

Urban Splash was selected by SCC officers and advisor CBRE as the preferred bidder from a shortlist of six, all of which had put forward differing plans on what to do with the Cole Brothers site – abandoned by John Lewis in 2021, and listed a year later.

Unlike most of its rivals, Splash and its architect AHMM decided not to demolish the linked car park, instead reducing the volume of parking and putting the space to other uses, an environmentally sound plus point that played a part in its selection.

Although Cllr Hunt and fellow members were not involved in the decision until yesterday’s meeting, he told Place that the developer’s roster of projects gives him confidence:

“I’ve been impressed by Urban Splash. My takeaway is that this process has been a signal that high-calibre operators with proven track records want to be a part of Sheffield’s future, it’s a sign they have confidence in us.

“Our team will now be looking to engage again with the unsuccessful bidders, because we’re keen to talk with them about other development opportunities in the city.”

The project will hopefully include a rooftop public pocket park. Credit: AHMM

News emerged this week that the former Debenhams store a short walk from Barker’s Pool is to be converted into a maker’s market and food hall, as the property industry’s adoption of a post department store world takes shape.

It is this need for a shift in direction for city centres that makes the broad mix of uses proposed for Cole Store – as AHMM’s initial CGIs describe the Cole Brothers building – so appealing, said Cllr  Hunt:

“I don’t think any element or other is particularly more important than others in the Urban Splash proposal. I’d always presumed that a building of that size would be too big for a single type of use, and there would be a range of different things. What’s important is that it is a destination, somewhere for eating, meeting, working, in line with how city centres are changing.

“City centres can’t just be about retail now, we need that full mix of things, because that’s what makes places exciting, and it’s what will make them successful as we look to the future.”

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