Restorations - Delicate touch saves Victorian facade set to front upscale Radisson hotel in Sheffield

Demolition isn’t all wrecking balls, crushers and breakers, sometimes only a delicate touch will do.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 7:40 am

Especially when a long Victorian facade has to be separated from its original building and propped up while the rest is flattened.

And that structure is intended to become the front of a multi-million pound hotel in Sheffield city centre.

WHY WAS THE OPERATION SO DELICATE?

The Palatine Chambers, City Mews facade is propped up with supports through every window.

For building firm McLaughlin and Harvey the stakes couldn’t have been higher. One mistake and, like a house of cards, it would be gone.

Contracts manager Conor McKenna said they started on Palatine Chambers on Pinstone Street with small remote-control demolition robots to reduce the height and create a 15ft ‘daylight zone’ between the building and its facade, which is propped up with supports through every window, connected to a thicket of scaffolding.

WHICH HISTORIC BUILDINGS SURROUND THE SITE?

Once separated, the big machines could be wheeled in, including crushers with a 50ft reach. Less dainty, but they still require the utmost control because, as well as the facade, the site is surrounded by historic buildings including Town Hall Chambers (home to Barclays) Pinstone Chambers (home to the Co-operative bank) and the Salvation Army Citadel (the demolition has exposed an attractive round window at the rear).

The demolition used crushers with a 50ft reach.

The Yorkshireman Rock Bar was even closer to the action but had to be flattened last month after the discovery of serious structural problems.

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Now, with demolition out of the way - including 1960s office block, Barker’s Pool House - the focus is turning to construction.

Andrew Davison, project director at Queensberry, the council’s development partner for Heart of the City II, said in about three weeks work on foundations will begin to create an upscale 154-bed Radisson Blu hotel, set to open in September 2023. A steel frame will start to take shape from April.

The facade from Pinstone Street.

He said: “There will be three more weeks of clearance and we will start to dig holes and foundations. A steel frame is not cheaper but it is quicker and easier.”

WHAT FEATURES WILL THE HOTEL HAVE?

The hotel will have a rooftop restaurant with views over the Peace Gardens and the Grade I listed town hall.

But whether it will have cars running below is not yet known. Councillors have yet to decide whether the closure of Pinstone Street to traffic will be made permanent.

Pinstone Street in the early 20th Century. Picture Sheffield.

Mr Davison said the hotel would have two entrances, front and rear, and the Burgess Street route would be kept open so the hotel would always have a vehicle drop-off.

Mr McKenna said their first job when they started last year was to remove the John Lewis bridge across Burgess Street.

Today, all the buildings around the site and the facade are monitored weekly for movement - so far so good.

The hotel forms part of the Block ‘A’ redevelopment in Heart of the City II which includes a revamp of the former Embrace nightclub on Barker’s Pool - the former Gaumont cinema - into a leisure space.

A council report in March last year states: ‘A lack of depth and quality of hotel provision as other comparable cities in the UK and wider, limits the ability to attract visitor numbers and spend to Sheffield’.

Andrew Davison, project director at Queensberry, the council’s development partner for Heart of the City II.

HOW MUCH IS IT ALL COSTING?

Block ‘A’ is set to cost a total of £47.9m, it adds.

The council has applied for £3m from the Mayoral Combined Authority to help pay for it. A decision is due in March.

A report by property consultants Montagu Evans states that 18-28 Pinstone Street (Palatine Chambers, built in 1893-6) and 30-42 Pinstone Street (City Mews, built in 1895), replaced a ‘piecemeal assemblage of buildings’ including small industrial properties, residences and outbuildings.

They were constructed following the widening of Pinstone Street for tramworks.

Designed by local architects Flockton & Gibbs, the premises were built for Rueben Thompson, a local businessman, and comprise four-storey redbrick buildings in the classical style which have contrasting sandstone dressings and glazed shopfronts at first floor.

WHY IS THE FACADE IMPORTANT?

The report adds: ‘the architecture reflects Sheffield’s prosperity and aspiration in the Victorian era and partly forms one of the main focal points with the city, the Peace Gardens’.

Last year, Adela Cristea, head of business development UK & Ireland for Radisson, said: “We’re very excited to be at the forefront of Sheffield’s regeneration project in a fantastic location at the heart of the city, as well as adding this vibrant new property to our selection of Radisson Blu hotels across the UK.”

A council report states the hotel will not rely on burning fossil fuels for heating or catering. It will have solar panels on the roof and be connected to Sheffield’s Energy from Waste district heating network.

The authority has signed an international hotel management agreement with Radisson Hospitality Belgium SRL.

WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE COUNCIL’S AGREEMENT WITH RADISSON?

In a redacted copy sent to The Star, it states the council will develop and construct, directly or by contracting, the ‘fully-fitted furnished and equipped hotel as a ‘system’ hotel of international, upper, upscale full service quality in accordance with the terms of this agreement at its own expense’.

The council will also pay costs including acquiring the site, design and construction of the hotel, purchase and installation of furniture, fixtures and equipment, initial working capital funding requirements and pre-opening costs.

Meanwhile Radisson will be reimbursed for the costs and expenses of the pre-opening budget and grand opening activities.

The authority will also pay Radisson a technical services fee of £500 per guest room - £77,000 - in total and install Radisson’s specified property management system - for front of house and reservations - and email and internet systems. It also ‘agrees to provide funds to maintain the hotel’.

Meanwhile someone from the council and the hotel manager will have monthly meetings to discuss financial performance against the budget.

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The architecture 'reflects Sheffield’s prosperity and aspiration in the Victorian era and partly forms one of the main focal points with the city, the Peace Gardens'.