Public uses will be key to the building's future. Credit: SCC

Mixed-use plan the favourite for Cole Brothers building

Sheffield City Council will next week decide on the landmark store’s future, with a proposal for cafes, retail, leisure, event and workspace the preferred option.

An extraordinary meeting of the council’s strategy and resources committee on 28 June will examine the six proposals on the table for the Barker’s Pool building, and decide whether to proceed to detailed negotiations with the preferred bidder.

Under the plans put forward by the preferred bidder – who, if selected, would be revealed after next week’s meeting – “substantial areas” of the building would be reopened to the public, with the council saying that the “scheme and uses would complement the existing and proposed development within the rest of the Heart of the City project”.

The plans would see Barker’s Pool and Cambridge Street entrances opened up to allow for outdoor dining areas. The rest of the ground floor would be filled with retail units, with particular interest in independent businesses, and the lower ground floors would be used for leisure purposes. The upper floors would be workspace together with some rooftop offices.

It is proposed the existing car park structure would be maintained but with far fewer parking spaces than the current 400, and would be made available to tenants of the building. The structure would have public access to a pocket park at the top, as well as studio spaces and a gym on the upper levels.

CBER is the council’s advisor on the project.

A report prepared for the committee said that the preferred bidder “has a strong track record of working with many public sector parties in a number of cities across the UK including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham”.

The bidder controls more than 1m sq ft of commercial space and according to the report has set out that Cole Brothers
would be the next commercial scheme in its pipeline – its intention is to retain and hold the building as part of its portfolio.

According to the report, “at the core of the proposal is ambition is to re-establish the building as a place to meet, eat and shop in the city centre, with the ground floor filled with lively retail, food and drink and the upper floor providing flexible workspace for
Sheffield’s growing business base. The intention is to re-establish a strong identity for the building, rekindling the association and connection of Sheffield people with this iconic building”.

The report added that the bidder submitted the highest financial offer and is not requiring any financial contribution from the council – although SCC and CBRE assessed the bids on six criteria, financial was by far the most important, accounting for 40% in the weighting methodology.

Cole Brothers is a city centre landmark, occupying a high profile position. John Lewis vacated the building in 2021, and the 1960s property was grade two-listed the following year, against the council’s wishes. Sheffield City Council owns the site, and is looking to let it on a 250-year lease to the successful bidder in this process.

The suggested refurbishment of a building that retains several distinct period features will be a ‘light touch, maximum impact’ approach with limited changes such as retaining and exposing existing features and cleaning the façade rather than replacing panels, whilst improving thermal performance.

Natural light and ventilation will be maximised by creating a large atrium through the building, said SCC.

Since John Lewis’s departure and the council taking the building on, contractors have been on site removing asbestos.

The other submissions included plans for a hotel, offices and residential. The council, which had narrowed the contenders down to six in March, said the interest shown in the project gave it encouragement for other projects in the public pipeline.

The committee report said that “meanwhile uses” could be activated at the site within six to 12 months, adding that the preferred bidder’s suggested delivery timeline was shorter than that of some of the other contenders.

Cllr Tom Hunt, leader of Sheffield City Council and chair of the strategy and resources committee, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to decide the future of an important and much-loved building in the city centre. This promises to be a really positive step forward for Sheffield. We can’t wait to see the building come to life again over the coming years.

“It is fantastic to see high calibre developers showing so much interest in our city and willing to invest on a significant scale. It shows developers are watching and noticing Sheffield and want to be a part of the positive changes that are happening here.”

The other bidders:

  • A “high quality” 199-bedroom hotel, with ground floor retail and leisure. A 173-home BTR scheme on the linked car park site.
  • Workspace for spin-outs and tech startups, offices for larger occupiers,  including a rooftop extension. Cafes at ground floor. Apartments on demolished car park site.
  • Apartments for sale and rent mixed with workspace provision at upper floors, cafes, retail and leisure at ground floor, Rooftop duplexes to be added. Family homes on car park site.
  • Cafes at ground floor, offices above, with rooftop leisure. Car park manit6ained.
  • The sixth bis was withdrawn recently, but was dominated by residential no both the upper floors of Cole Bros and in a new building on the car park site.


Upper floors would include workspace, with a public park at the top. Credit: Place North

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