WHEN it opened 50 years ago, Castle House was welcomed as a sophisticated, Continental-style addition to shopping in Sheffield city centre.
The Brightside and Carbrook Co-op department store was distinguished by its striking polished granite frontage, striking spiral staircase and the latest in air conditioning.
Declining fortunes resulted in the closure of the department store four years ago, although the Co-op food store survived, along with its travel agency, and a post office.
Now the five-storey building is due to get a new lease of life, later this year.
Developers who have bought the premises in Angel Street are preparing to refurbish the whole building and to add two more shops in time for Christmas. In addition, they are aiming to let the top two floors for offices.
“We have got interest from potential retailers,” said Guy Illingworth, director of Manchester-based property development and investment company CTP. “We haven‘t got anybody tied up legally because it is very early but we are very confident we’ll have the majority of the space let.”
Total investment is estimated at between £8m and £9m.
The council is keen to see new uses in part of the city centre that has been hit hard by the recession and to secure the future of a building that is listed for its architectural interest.
“Hopefully we can bring it back to life,” said Mr Ilingworth.
“We like the look of the building and its configuration. It was a property transaction we thought would work.”
The appearance of the listed building is now protected by English Heritage, the Government-backed conservation agency, and the developers, who bought the property last year from the Co-operative Group, are promising to be “very respectful”.
The council is being asked to approve details of a refurbishment and restoration so that Castle House can be changed from a department store to individual retail units.
Most of the proposed work is internal and one of the aims is to make it easier for customers to get in and out of the individual shops.
Conservationists in the city are welcoming the plans and say they would like to see the original clock on the facade restored or a replica installed.
CTP has a track record in Sheffield through its involvement in St Paul’s Place, the development of offices, restaurants and multi-storey car park between the Peace Gardens and Arundel Gate, which forms a key part of the Heart of the City programme.
“We are active in Sheffield and we like Sheffield,” said Mr Illingworth. “We feel very confident working there.”