Key building owner 'in limbo' for 14 years due to uncertainty over John Lewis in Sheffield
The owner of a crumbling building in Sheffield city centre has been trapped ‘in limbo’ for 14 years due to uncertainty over the future of John Lewis.
Robert Hill said no bar or restaurant operator would touch the Salvation Army Citadel on Burgess Street until they knew what was happening across the road - a situation unchanged since 2007.
The Grade II listed Citadel closed in 1999 and today stands derelict and decaying - as Heart of the City II developments go up around it.
Tandem Properties, of which Mr Hill is director, bought the building for £865,000 in 2007.
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At the time, he said, Sheffield City Council planned a New Retail Quarter that would have seen the John Lewis store flattened and moved to a new site.
The project was eventually scrapped and replaced by the current £480m scheme, with the department store remaining where it is.
Last summer Sheffield City Council bought the building for £3m and offered to revamp it in return for John Lewis agreeing to stay.
But in a shock move, the firm pulled out of the 20-year deal and closed it permanently in June.
The authority has yet to say what it will do with the five-storey building.
Mr Hill says until then he remains ‘in limbo’.
He added: “I have been trying to adjust all the way along, but no operator will commit because something horrible might go up across the road. I’ve been waiting for a decision since 2007.
“The council is now looking at reusing the building but they have got to decide before I can do anything.”
But he insisted he was committed to the project and to Sheffield.
He added: “I have been on this job for 14 years and I never thought about selling up and walking away. I’m optimistic for the future, I think you have got to be. I like Sheffield, it’s been under-rated for a long time.”
The best outcome would be if the John Lewis car park, which looms over the Citadel, was demolished and replaced by a public square, he added. It would also help the new developments on Cambridge Street.
Last year, Tandem Properties was granted planning permission to open up the side of the building facing John Lewis.
Mr Hill said he had spoken to the man Harrogate who had landed upmarket restaurant The Ivy, which also has a site in Manchester.
He added: “If I put The Ivy in there it would be easy. You get a tenant in position first and funding on the back of it.
“But it depends on the council. John Lewis is a huge site in the middle of the total regeneration of the city centre. They are under huge pressure to come up with something special. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The building opened in 1894 and was in use by the Salvation Army for more than a century.
A Sheffield City Council spokeswoman said options for the former John Lewis shop would be included in public engagement planned for before Christmas.
She added: “The council wants to come up with a clear plan for the beginning of 2022 so that all city centre occupiers, including the Citadel owner. are clear about the way forward with the building.”