Alsop Fields is bringing new life to Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter.
It is a name that harks back to the area around Sidney Street in the 18th century, but it is virtually unknown at present.
However, Alsop Fields has been resurrected for a new city centre development.
Elmsdale Estates, part of City Estates UK Ltd, are nearing completion of the £10m first phase of a development creating apartments and studios, offices for the high tech and creative sectors and places to eat and drink.
Bordered by Sidney Street and Matilda Street, Alsop Fields comprises four very distinct and separately identifiable buildings - Albert Works, Speedwell Works, No 77 and a new build, replacing the former Niche nightclub.
Niche Building has a mix of residential studios and apartments above commercial units, together forming an integrated and cohesive redevelopment, linked by a new Riverside Walk and a series of vibrant landscaped courtyard spaces.
Alsop Fields provides unique space to suit a variety of uses such as bars, restaurants, cafes and offices.
The first tenants have moved into Speedwell Works and lettings are being taken for the exclusive deluxe studios with partitioned bedrooms and one and two-bedroom apartments, which provide top quality rented accommodation for young professionals and students overlooking an internal courtyard.
Alsop Fields is designed to be a destination in itself – one that can be compared to the trendier parts of Manchester and London.
We see it as a significant boost to the whole district, which has been called the Cultural Industries Quarter since 1981, and sits broadly between the city centre and the railway station in one direction, Howard Street and Leadmill Road in the other.
The CIQ was a trail-blazing initiative launched by the local authority to help regenerate this largely former industrial fringe of Sheffield city centre focusing on the arts and emerging creative and digital businesses.
The council estimates there are now more than 300 companies in the CIQ and most of them are connected to creative or cultural industries, such as film-making, music production, software design, broadcasting, new media, architecture, art and traditional crafts.
For many people, the area is defined by landmarks such as the Showroom Cinema and adjoining Workstation, Hallam University’s HUBs building, the Science and Technology Parks, the Leadmill and the Site Gallery.
But for all the progress, there is a sense that the CIQ has nowhere near reached its full potential.
In fact, the council has conceded that the CIQ has lost ground to similar clusters of creative businesses in other cities and that it needs to refresh and update – both its cultural and commercial offer and public space for a growing resident and business population.
Albert Works, the first building to be completed at Alsop Fields, is now occupied by internationally recognised marketing company Jaywing Plc, so already daytime life is being added to the area.
City Estates have had a stake in the area for some time, notably with Sellers Wheel in Arundel Street, the award-winning conversion of a grade II listed mesters building into a residential and commercial complex.
In particular, the success of coffee house Tamper has encouraged us to create something similar at Alsop Fields. Another of City Estates’ recent projects in the CIQ was the construction of apartments and studios for 243 students on the site of the old Gatecrasher nightclub.
With Hallam University and the railway station so near, the CIQ is now home to thousands of students, and is all the better for it.
However, Alsop Fields has been created to attract other residents, not just students, and a second phase is due to be built on the other side of Sidney Street.
It’s reassuring that after the initial vision of the CIQ has appeared to stall, a momentum is beginning to build again.
Alsop Fields is part of a new wave of optimism that the CIQ can do its bit to enhance Sheffield’s reputation as an attractive, lively and distinctive place to live, work and play.