A different future is on the horizon for Castlegate in Sheffield city centre - as Primark’s move to The Moor signals the start of a new business district.
The clothes store opens in its new home today, after closing its doors on High Street.
And with few major retailers left in the area, the council’s plan to turn Castlegate away from shopping is gathering pace.
Primark UK director of sales Simon Gibbs said he was ‘delighted’ to open the ‘important’ new shop on The Moor.
And Richard Wright, chief executive of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said it was time for the city to move ahead of its competitors.
“In general terms we see this as a next step of the relocation of the retail strengths towards the area around The Moor and the new city centre development, and the regeneration of the castle area as a new business district for professional services,” he said.
“We are obviously frustrated with the speed of change, and particularly the chequered history of the new retail quarter, but we understand how difficult it is. Providing we get a unique and bespoke new development which really puts us in front of our competitors then we can accept that.”
Since the closure of Castle Market, Sheffield Council has made little secret of its desire to streamline the city centre shopping experience. The redevelopment of The Moor, with the new Primark and cinema adding to the Moor Market, pulls focus away from Castlegate, and the retail quarter will eventually bring most shoppers to the south end of Fargate.
Centre liaison manager for The Moor, Sandra Barley, said Primark’s arrival was a ‘game changer’ for that part of the city.
“We have been increasing footfall here as more retailers join us and this opening is the first of our new development that will also include other retailers, restaurants and Light cinemas,” she said.
“The Moor is fast becoming a destination and Primark is fabulous way to showcase our increasingly vibrant retail and leisure offer.”
Primark’s new two-storey home has 45,000 sq ft of retail space and employs 282 staff - of whom 175 are new.
It offers women’s, men’s and children’s fashions, footwear, accessories, lingerie and homeware.
Regional controller Clive Armitage said: “We have a very strong customer base in Sheffield and with more space in our new store we can showcase our great fashion and value in our latest store design, offering our customers an enhanced shopping experience.
“It’s great to see the recent investment in this part of the city starting with the fabulous market development in 2013. The great mix of retailers, eateries, and a cinema which are coming, and the recent new parking will make The Moor an attractive destination to visit and enjoy. We are excited to be a part of it.”
Lord Mayor of Sheffield Denise Fox also welcomed the move. She said: “Primark is another really exciting addition to the Moor and a popular choice with many shoppers in Sheffield.”
A history of retail
The corner building overlooking Sheffield’s Cathedral Square has seen many fashions come and go as a key part of a once-buzzing shopping area. Primark is one of a string of well known retailers to occupy the High Street building that today closes its doors.
The tailor Montague Burton was originally on that site, but the shop was bombed during the Blitz in 1940.
Fashion retailer C&A Modes started to rebuild, opening a basement, ground floor and part of the first floor in 1950.
Peter Robinson opened in the corner unit in 1962 - The Star at the time described it as ‘the latest addition to the city’s ever-growing list of impressive new shops’ - and by C&A was planning a fifth floor on the building.
Peter Robinson carried on until the 1970s, when it left the corner unit to Top Shop, previously incorporated within the shop.
Furniture sellers Waring and Gillow then opened in 1975 and lasted for about 10 years.
C&A eventually closed in the late 1990s, after which Primark took over.
But a new future beckons for Castlegate, with the council’s plan to bring professional services into the block between the magistrates’ court and the tram lines.
There is also hope the ruins of Sheffield Castle could be turned into some sort of attraction, to work alongside the Old Town Hall as heritage sites within a new business district. The Friends of Sheffield Castle group has recently attained charitable status and is working to secure funding for the ruins.
Answering questions from Star readers in May, council chief executive John Mothersole said “We didn’t move the market because we believe there might be a castle under its foundations. We moved the market because, although Castle Market was popular, it was declining in popularity and many of the market traders told us it was very hard to sustain the markets in that condition.
“We absolutely believe that the city centre should have a good market. If we did not, then we would not have put the time and huge effort into moving it. The move to the Moor is designed to make sure that Sheffield Markets is close to where the main shopping is taking place in the city centre.
“All cities change, and Sheffield city centre has changed as well and Castlegate was in danger of being left out on a limb. I shop in the Moor Market just about every weekend and I do notice it is getting increasingly busy. It was the right move and as the Moor redefines itself then so the markets will succeed even more.
“In terms of Castlegate, now that we have moved the markets we can start to take account of what might be there.
“We plan to uncover the River Sheaf, create a new urban park on the castle site and then to offer commercial development in that area.
“It is a great chance to celebrate the excellent work that was done in the canal basin many years ago, and if we all remember the old Castlegate market in effect turned its back on that development. We can now put that right.”
A redeveloped Castlegate would link the city centre with the riverside business district.
Nearby, developer Urbo wants to regenerate the area to the north of the law courts in West Bar and has unveiled a £175m plan.
The scheme, known as West Bar Square, is a mix of office space, high quality apartment blocks, a four-star hotel, restaurants, shops and public space.
This would eventually lead to Kelham Island and its mix of homes, workshops, pubs and restaurants.