Digital hub for 1,100 people will be Sheffield's new '˜cultural and spiritual heart'

A digital hub with room for 1,100 people in a former Sheffield department store will be a new '˜cultural and spiritual heart of the city'.

Friday, 5th October 2018, 3:02 pm
Updated Saturday, 6th October 2018, 9:09 am
Work on the Kollider digital hub in the old Co-op building on Castlegate in Sheffield. Pictured is Nick Morgan. Picture: Chris Etchells

When Castle House is '˜pumping' and people are working, visiting and being entertained within, it will be a '˜future engine of industry' and the '˜home of digital start-ups' in Sheffield, according to Nick Morgan of Kollider Projects, the organisation that will run it after a £3m revamp.

It will open - and illuminated - from early until late and full of features designed to help ambitious, hard working people develop the next Instagram or Facebook, from coffee to co-working space and from mentoring to money.

Cleaners abseil down the buidling

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That's the theory. The reality today is that it's a building site. The listed 1960s building has been stripped back to concrete, apart from protected features including a full height spiral staircase, beloved of shoppers of old.

A team of 25 working for Kestrel Interiors, a Manchester outfit that says it has hired 20 locals, is laying floors, plastering, wiring and fitting ducting, while other firms are fitting new windows and giving the exterior a clean.

It is a dusty, gloomy and noisy environment. But passersby on Angel Street can already look into what will be a food hall open to the public with 10 independent kitchens and a bar around canteen tables and booths. Tamper Coffee and Depot Bakery have been confirmed as the tenants while the rest of the slots are oversubscribed, says Nick.

The upper ground floor will be co-working space for laptop toting techies to brainstorm billion dollar ideas. At the weekend it will be taken over by clubs and networking events. The first floor, with its own entry off King Street, will be home to the National Video Games Arcade and the British Games Institute where gamers can play, code and design. There is also space for conferences and events and Kollider is looking for an events manager.

Plasterer Heather Ginty.

The third floor is for '˜Kollider powered by Barclays Eagle Labs' an incubator for tech start-ups.

Nick said: 'There's a lot of people in Sheffield with good ideas. This place will have a critical mass of intelligent, motivated people with great food and coffee, we will bring every good influence we can to bear.

'But it's not about us doing it all, it's about us providing a platform to those who can drive their agenda. This building will be a testament to the fact that all sorts of people are seeking to come in and lead.

'This kind of thing doesn't happen if a business opens it and charges rent, that's an office building.

Nick Morgan.

'It's very difficult for people to get their head around this place - but when it's built it will seem natural.

'Sheffield Castle is just through there, this is the spiritual and cultural heart of the city.

I don't want to over promise, but the community will make this happen.'

Northpoint U+I bought the building after the Co-op closed in 2008. It received £3m from the Government for the revamp.

Work on the Kollider digital hub in the old Co-op building on Castlegate in Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

In total  two floors have been taken and the food hall is 'pretty much there.' Nick says there's still work to do but it can't happen all at once 

The first of half of the building is due to come 'on line' in February.

He added: 'You can't tenant a building when people have to come in in hard hats and boots. With the co-working space, we don't want to do what's done before. If I get out and say the job's done I could lose an opportunity to talk to a new partner.'

BLUE CHIP BACKING FROM BARCLAYS GAVE PROJECT AN EARLY BOOST

In total, the Kollider hub is set to '˜create and support' 150 jobs, including 50 in the food hall.  

Director Nick Morgan says early support from Barclays was a huge boost.

The bank's '˜Eagle Lab' is partnering with Kollider to run a business incubator in the old Coop building.

Nick said: 'We brought Barclays in here and our visions were aligned. It gives others comfort that we are doing something with a blue chip.

'I give them credit for being an early adopter. Some need to see it to invest, Barclays understood what it could be.'