For decades they have been Sheffield’s most famous flats, world renowned for their architecture - love it or loathe it.
Now Park Hill is set to become a home for business after seven firms agreed to move in. The group, all tech or creative enterprises, will join two pioneering companies which set up shop two years ago.
By the end of the year, a 130-strong business community could form the city’s newest creative quarter.
Owner Urban Splash is modernising the building closest to Park Square and the lower three floors have been set aside for offices.
Big names, including filmmakers Sheffield Warp, have been attracted by its proximity to the city centre, tram, train, bus and road links, landscaped grounds, parking, sunny aspect, incredible view - and that architecture.
The concrete brutalist blocks were protected from demolition thanks to a Grade II listing - a move that is still met with derision among many in Sheffield. But to some Park Hill is thrilling.
Ian Stanyer, creative director of elearning company CAN Studios based at the Workstation, said they were moving in because of the location, the chance to buy their own place and a desire to be part of a “new creative quarter”.
The firm, which employs 15, writes training programmes and builds systems for five international humanitarian organisations and the Environment Agency.
It is set to move into office space created from three former flats in October.
He said: “Every time you look over your shoulder in Sheffield you see this place. It’s rare to find someone who has a good word to say about it. But I do like the architecture. It did look tired but following the revamp it looks brilliant.
“There are some quite exciting companies coming here - it could be the start of a new creative quarter. Uber and Human who are already here are a really friendly bunch. They showed us around their offices and we’ve already been invited round for Christmas lunch.”
Warp Films is taking up a mezzanine-style office - providing a base for the company to expand and offering space for a screening room, as well as more room for writers and other creative staff.
Mark Herbert, head of Warp Films, said: “We’re very excited about being up there – it feels very permanent.
“We’re planning quite an ambitious fit-out in the office, but I want to be in there as soon as possible - I’d move there tomorrow!”
So far, one flank of Park Hill has been converted by regeneration firm Urban Splash and 78 apartments were sold more than a year ago.
At the same time, 30,000sq ft of office space was created in the lower floors. Two creative agencies, Uber and Human, moved in two years ago.
Seven companies are now set to join them, leaving room for a maximum of just four more firms.
Tim Bottrill of commercial agents Fernie Greaves has worked on the project since the company opened a new office in the city centre last year.
A second residential phase, in flanks ‘B’ and ‘C’, will create a further 182 apartments. Some 78 are complete and three have just been bought.
The managing director of Urban Splash, Simon Gawthorpe, said: “The work we are doing at Park Hill is not just about creating some fantastic living accommodation but is also using this amazing building for businesses, retail and hospitality.”
PARK HILL FIRMS
n Warp - film company, famous for This is England and Four Lions
n YooMee - builds websites, apps and digital services to help charities
n Airship - customer relationship management specialists
n Kada Research - provides UK and EU research and consulting services in business and economic growth plus social inclusion
n Can Studios - elearning content and learning management systems
n Alpha Recruitment - construction and engineering specialists
n Cloaked - architectural cladding company
n Human - a creative agency working in graphic design, branding and art direction
n Uber - advertising/design/marketing agency
It’s been a lonely time for Park Hill pioneers Uber.
For the last two years the marketing agency has only had the folk at advertising firm Human as neighbours.
So news of the influx of seven businesses and scores of people has been met with joy.
Director Pamela-Jane Broadberry said: “It will be nice to have neighbours, like-minded people you can socialise with and get business from one another.
“We were based in Attercliffe and couldn’t find anything suitable at our first choice at Kelham Island.
“I’m from Sheffield and when someone suggested Park Hill I said, ‘No way am I going up there’.
“My two business partners and agent Tim Bottrill dragged me up and I was blown away. Now I’m an ambassador for it, trying to encourage people to move in.
“But it’s been a ghost town. As soon as we moved in the builders went quiet and Urban Splash said there was going to be a 10-month delay. But it doesn’t matter, it’s restarted and it will be nice to have neighbours.”
Uber employs 27 and has nine units - former flats - over three floors.
An influx of business people could spark the opening of facilities including a coffee bar.
Uber has plans to open ‘Ubar’ selling coffee, PJ said.
She added: “We’ve earmarked some space on the ground floor. Park Hill is changing.”
The curse of Digital Region hit Park Hill after the plug was pulled on the disastrous superfast broadband network.
The £150m council-owned taxpayer-funded commercial flop was shut down in August last year and firms all over the city which had been enjoying superfast speeds were forced on to stunningly slow connections.
Pamela-Jane Broadberry, of Park Hill-based agency Uber, said it had been a “nightmare”, with staff forced to leave computers on overnight to send and receive files.
Meanwhile, Sheffield firm Idaq Networks was setting up a superfast wireless service covering the city centre and she had “pushed and pushed” for a transmitter on the roof. With it finally installed, Uber was back up to full speed, she added.
Idaq Networks co-founder Mark Roebuck said they had spent £500,000 on 13 transmitters that covered Sheffield city centre and the Don Valley.
The last one was installed on the Magna visitor centre in Rotherham earlier this month.
The firm has just 70 customers but is predicting exponential growth after completing the network. The big advantage of wireless was the cheap connection cost compared to digging up the road to lay cables, he added.
High profile customers include Sheffield United, Magna, Urban Splash at Park Hill, Holiday Inn Express and Royal Victoria and the Cutlers’ Hall.
In September the county’s four councils signed a £22m deal with BT to provide superfast broadband to South Yorkshire. But Sheffield city centre was excluded.