Sheffield Property Association chair Martin McKervey also said reusing - instead of demolishing – the building on The Moor had clear carbon benefits, while a new city centre hospital would help tackle health inequalities and ease pressure on the NHS.
He commented after Sheffield project management company Arup won an award for its ‘High Street hospital’ idea in the prestigious Wolfson Economics Prize.
The five-storey building on The Moor was snapped up for £1.5m in March by London-based property company MHA. It closed for the final time in May after Debenhams went out of business.
MHA has yet to comment on what it might do.
Sheffield has lost several shops since the first lockdown in 2020, especially on Fargate. The city’s retail sector is now centred on The Moor which has benefited from an extensive revamp in recent years.
Mr McKervey praised the hospital idea.
He said: “We welcome this innovative thinking about reinvigorating urban centres and increasing footfall in the city.
“It’s clear that the future of cities will be based on more than retail and this is an interesting idea to replace around half of the footfall lost in Sheffield since the pandemic, whilst finding new uses for buildings that might otherwise lay empty or face demolition.
“The carbon benefits of reusing existing buildings for a high street hospital with strong public and active transport opportunities are clear, as well as tackling health access inequalities.
“The pressure on hospital staff and space has been highlighted during Covid and ideas like this can help create greater resilience in healthcare and improve outcomes for staff and patients.”
“This proposal is a good example of how the private sector can collaborate with public sector and academia to generate new thinking and help to shape the future of our towns and cities.”
MHA is based in Mayfair in London. It was founded by property entrepreneur Hossein Abedinzadeh and is an investment and development company with commercial, residential, retail and mixed-use properties largely in central London.
The Moor is owned by property company NewRiver which is the ‘head leaseholder’ of the Debenhams building. The firm has been approached for comment.