Readers give their views on what to do with landmark Sheffield building about to fall empty

One of Sheffield city centre’s most prominent buildings is about to fall empty and no one seems to know what to do with it - except readers of The Star.

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 7:00 am

Yorkshire Bank is leaving the premises on Fargate on October 14. Staff are moving into the Virgin Money opposite, following the banks’ merger.

It will leave a large, three-storey heritage building empty at a time of crisis on UK high streets.

Last week, The Star reported that 10 of 40 units on Fargate are empty. The bank will be the eleventh and the premium shopping street is ‘the worst it’s been’.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Yorkshire Bank on Fargate will be empty from October 14. Picture: Chris Etchells

A spokesman for Virgin Money said they leased the ground and first floors and basement from a firm called Fargate Investments LLP, based in London.

Virgin Money is responsible for finding a new tenant and it intends to market the property.

The upper two floors are vacant and are being marketed by Lambert Smith Hampton.

We asked for ideas, and on David Walsh’s LinkedIn page and Twitter account, and they came in thick and fast.

Career coach Karen Perkins suggested a Leeds-style Corn Exchange, an idea backed by wedding planner Becki Hastings.

She said: “The Corn Exchange idea is fabulous. We are so lucky in Sheffield to have lots of fabulous independent makers and food companies it would be brilliant!”

Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Weston Park Cancer Charity, agreed, adding: “Also a boutique hotel with wedding and party space.”

But property developer David Slater reckoned it should be residential.

“The solution for the city centre now is as much leisure and residential as possible. Retail space requirement is shrinking by the day. If Sheffield got its act together we could create a tourism offer to match York.

“The Sheffield Castlegate scheme could be fabulous. All student residential should be in the city centre and Broomhill Crookes etc should revert to family dwelling

“Residential and cafe culture on Fargate and around the cathedral would be a boon. Piazzas and pocket parks are the way forward to encourage city centre living.

“Anti social behaviour has to be eradicated completely with the Archer Project moved out to Effingham Road area to save our Cathedral district.”

Investment specialist Joe Anwyl said: “David Slater is 99 per cent correct! We're never going to match York in tourism (otherwise you'd have got 100 per cent) but once thru the pandemic the two universities are key to the city centre as the diverse young people they attract from all over the globe are now this city's life blood.

“The Archer Project is a lifeline to many but a special location away from the Heart of the City is required. I hope and believe that Kate Josephs, Sheffield City Council’s new chief executive, has the strength to deliver the scale of change not seen since Bob Kerslake.”

Jack Spivey said: “A pop-up style retail unit subsidised by the council or a local business support fund as previously seen on Division Street and in the Winter Gardens would be brilliant. A great opportunity for local independent firms to expand their reach and test the waters in a bricks and mortar store.

“Of course this is only really viable if Fargate can regain the footfall (of willing spenders especially) of decades seemingly now gone by!”

Stuart Abbs said: “It should not be turned into a bar or hotel. A city centre version of food hall the Cutlery Works would be an awesome shout.”

On Twitter, SJ Spode said: “I think it’s time for Sheffield City Council and Sheffield BID to consider some radical plans for the city centre.

“In the 21st century does the city need, and can it sustain, a retail centre that runs from the old Castle Market area to Moorfoot? Especially with offshoots on West Street and Division Street?

“Is it time to redefine the area of the cities retail centre to a smaller, more concentrated hub? And look at radical alternatives for other land and buildings outside that area.”

Carl Lee said: “Who owns it? In the end what happens to it will be their decision.”

Diane Jarvis, Sheffield BID Manager, said: “We all recognise that city centres are changing. Clearly, we are sorry to see this iconic building become vacant. Two years ago, we conducted an extensive survey of our members and the general public around the future of Fargate.

“This fed into the bid for the Future High Streets Fund led by the Council and the University of Sheffield. The survey showed a clear importance attached to this building. Between the efforts around the Heart of the City II and the recently submitted bid for the Future High Streets Fund, Sheffield BID is confident that this building can find a new and revitalised purpose.

“Making it a centrepiece of future regeneration would allow it to fulfil its social, cultural and economic potential.”

Radical plans to ‘future-proof’ a prime Sheffield street with a multi-storey events building, hundreds of flats and climate-ready planting could receive a £15m government boost within weeks.

Fargate could be overhauled to include a giant ‘Events Central’ hub, new access to disused offices, paving the way for flats, and play areas, lighting and landscaping.

The vision also includes outdoor seating for cafes and retaining anchor shops including a large Marks and Spencer.

If the Future High Streets Fund bid is approved by government in autumn, work would start as soon as January and take two years.

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, of Sheffield University, who is leading the bid, said it was an opportunity to “future-proof the city centre for the 21st century.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to The Star website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you also see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support it. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Thank you

Nancy Fielder, editor