Ambition to create 'new quarter of Sheffield' with £21m Park Hill arts investment

S1 Artspace at Park Hill flats.
S1 Artspace at Park Hill flats.

Community was at one point the key word for residents living in the famous ‘streets in the sky’ of Park Hill flats.

The loss of that community as the once-pioneering housing development deteriorated has been a contentious point for many Sheffielders for some time.

But Urban Splash, the developer working to transform Park Hill, hopes the inclusion of a major arts and cultural venue will bring vibrancy back to the area and create a new and inclusive community.

Investment to the tune of £21 million – including £1 million from the Government and the remainder from grants – will be used to establish a new home for S1 Artspace in the derelict Duke Street wing of the iconic brutalist buildings.

Urban Splash regeneration director Mark Latham said the firm’s ambition for Park Hill when it first got involved in 2007 was to make a space where a new community could flourish.

“The aim has been to create a new quarter for the city of Sheffield where people want to live, work, play and visit,” he said.

The Brutalist Playground exhibition at Park Hill.

The Brutalist Playground exhibition at Park Hill.

“Some of that potential has been realised with the completion of phase one, and seeing a new mixed and multi-generational community being established.”

Urban Splash has big plans for Park Hill, which has in recent years been more closely associated with poverty and ruin.

Even today, the first phase of 263 redeveloped apartments look down on a space which was turned into a ‘tent city’ to house Sheffield’s homeless.

The remaining buildings are in dire need of investment, and Urban Splash has set a completion date of 2022 for the entire project.

Mark Latham of Urban Splash

Mark Latham of Urban Splash

The second phase is 206 apartments at a cost of £25 million, and the third is student accommodation with 320 beds at £20 million.

Architect Mikhail Riches is working on phase two, although a planning application has yet to be submitted.

But change is taking place, and there are about 600 people living and working at Park Hill. Urban Splash takes pride in what it calls a ‘mixed community’ comprising affordable housing, rented flats and owner occupiers.

The firm has faced criticism from social housing advocates who say the people who once lived in Park Hill have been priced out of the new flats.

'Tent city' in the shadow of Park Hill.

'Tent city' in the shadow of Park Hill.

But Urban Splash points to the 96 ‘affordable’ units and 28 help-to-buy flats in phase one, with more to come in future phases.

The developer is also trying to attract visitors as well as residents, and has planted wildflowers and created seating areas. Events such as an outdoor cinema have proved successful and are likely to continue this year.

Mr Latham said: “During 2017 we intend to follow on from the success of the outdoor film screening event last year – which 500 people attended – with more opportunities for people to come and visit Park Hill.”

He added: “Urban Splash works regularly with artists and creative groups as part of its regeneration projects.

“S1’s exhibitions and events have attracted more people to this area of the city and it is good to see how the team and their artists obviously feel at home here.

“They are now an essential part of the 600-strong community living and working at Park Hill.”

Artist Emily Musgrave at S1 Artspace.

Artist Emily Musgrave at S1 Artspace.

S1 has already moved to a new temporary home in the old Scottish Queen pub building at Park Hill, and is working with artists and residents on the new venture.

An initial exhibition, The Brutalist Playground by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble and artist Simon Terrill, was held last year.

Artistic director Louise Hutchinson said: “We’ve been delighted at the response to our pilot exhibitions programme at Park Hill, particularly from residents, who have been actively involved and welcomed us into the community.

“Now all our studio holders are based at Park Hill, we’re looking forward to developing the next phase of our activity and to working with partners in the local community and across the city on new exhibitions, events and opportunities.”

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The team from Mikhail Riches, which will design phase two of Park Hill flats.

The team from Mikhail Riches, which will design phase two of Park Hill flats.